Magritte's absurd world on display at Vienna's Albertina

8th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The absurd world of Rene Magritte, an artist known for his bowler-hatted men and green apples, is shown in a new light with a comprehensive exhibit at Vienna's Albertina museum opening late Tuesday.

With some 250 pieces from private and public collections all over Europe, North America and Japan -- some of them rarely seen -- the exposition retraces the surrealist artist's progress from collages to his famous "Empire of Light" phase.

"It's a world we know from our dreams," Albertina director Klaus Albrecht Schroeder noted at a preview of the show Tuesday.

"But he doesn't depict dreams, it's just the same principles: the change in proportions, metamorphosis ... this attack on rational reality."

Some of Magritte's best-known works are included in the display, from his fragmented women's bodies to his sky-coloured birds and suspended rocks.

The chronological order also takes the visitor from his mind games -- "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," a painting of a pipe with the inscription "This is not a pipe" -- to his pop culture-inspired "Periode Vache" and his later focus on mystery.

Created in collaboration with Britain's Tate Liverpool, the exhibit also features whimsical short films, letters, posters and advertisements, as well as pictures of friends and family, which he often composed like a painting, with an element of the absurd.

"I think this exhibit brings a new level to Magritte, a new significance," said Tate Liverpool director Christoph Grunenberg. "He's an artist you can rediscover."

Magritte, who was born in 1898 and died in 1967, created many of his works at a time of social, political and economic unrest so that the timing of the exhibit could not be more appropriate, Schroeder also told AFP.

Today, "certainties that we thought were unshakeable have suddenly fallen apart ... and in this sense, Magritte's absurd language is an apt metaphor for this paradoxical combination of opposites."

In the Belgian artist's world, smoke coming out of a fireplace is actually steam from a locomotive, a dark street is topped by a bright blue sky and shards from a broken window still have fragments of the view imprinted on them.

"It is a truly quiet, motionless, even petrified world, and ... we too are frozen in shock at the moment," Schroeder says.

The exhibit runs until February 26.


© 2011 AFP

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