Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Hollywood, Dali's Films Are Reappraised

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Hollywood, Dali's Films Are Reappraised

Article excerpt

Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, both the painter and the man, are familiar icons of 20th-century art. The madcap Catalan with the exclamation-mark mustache as well as his images of melting clocks are staples of pop-culture imagery. But his lifelong experimentation with cinema is perhaps less well known. Fittingly, in the shadow of Hollywood, this niche of Dali's studies is the subject of an ambitious new show, "Dali: Painting & Film," here at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Like most early avant-garde pioneers, Dali had "an intense dialogue with film," says LACMA director Michael Govan.

Curators from London's Tate Museum, Spain's Fundacion Dali, and LACMA joined forces to bring the exhibition from London to Los Angeles (it heads to Florida and New York next year), where many of Dali's movie dreams played out (he was good friends with both Jack Warner and Walt Disney). The show assembles an extraordinarily large range of personal sketches, letters, and, of course, paintings in addition to a dozen or so films and videos. Curators hope visitors will take away a deeper understanding of the role film played in the evolution of Dali's surrealist aesthetic and, in turn, gain some appreciation of the impact this "proto-pop artist" had on the next generation. "There's very good evidence that Dali influenced many later artists," says Sara Cochran, LACMA's assistant curator of modern art. Many later filmmakers, including David Lynch, also felt Dali's influence.

Famous (and not so famous) films anchor each of the major areas, from Dali's early collaboration with Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel in the still startling, "Un Chien Andalou" (The Andalusian Dog), in which a razor slices an eyeball, to the artist's work with Walt Disney in the animated "Destino," and Alfred Hitchcock in "Spellbound."

The rooms devoted to "Spellbound" and "Destino" are intriguing bookends in Dali's rocky love affair with the industry. "Dali had his frustrations with Hollywood because he wasn't in charge," Ms. Cochran says. But, in the case of Hitchcock, the British director saw Dali's two greatest strengths as a perfect fit for his thriller: Dali was a master draughtsman in service of wildly creative and dreamlike imagery. …

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