Review of Dalí: Poetics of the Small Exhibit 1929-1936

By: Forrest Cook

The Meadows Museum at SMU, as part of an objective to bring more Spanish art to America, has been kind enough to host a new Salvador Dalí exhibit. Based around their 2014 acquisition of the Dalí original, The Fish Man (L’homme poisson, 1930), Dalí: Poetics of the Small 1929-1936 is a truly wonderful collection. Thoughtfully curated by Claire Barry, director of conservation at the Kimball Art Museum, and co-curated by Mark Roglán and Shelley DeMaria of the Meadows Museum, the exhibition explores one “small” fact: that of Dalí’s estimated 200 paintings completed between 1929 and 1936, nearly half of them measured only thirteen inches or less. Almost two dozen of these beautiful pieces are on display at the museum, presented alongside three curatorial essays, each of which serve to shed light on Dalí’s technique, personal influences and philosophy to provide an in-depth understanding of how he developed his now-iconic surrealist style.

Dalí’s focus on the miniature reminds art-lovers that sometimes, it’s the smallest things that count. His bright oils on wood or panel are vibrant and spectacular to behold. Visitors may wish to get up close, to catch a glimpse of each tiny detail, but lines taped on the floor remind viewers this isn’t their personal device glaring back, and not to get too near. It is tempting, though – a viewer will want to follow the fine strokes and details of each painting, often inspired by photographic collages. Differing stylistically is the painting Solitude (1931), where Dalí’s use of vast spaces still only seems to draw each beholder in further.

A quick study of the works exhibited reveals skilled, white accent-work relatable to modern tattooing forms. A favorite among these, Cardinal, Cardinal (1934), details five weary-looking men in a ruinous desert, and a strange looking woman who approaches them. An obscure figure on a nearby dune casts a long shadow over the event, as if it all were only an aberration.

Also on display at Meadows Museum is Dali’s Aaliyah: A Moment in Jewish History, a collection of twenty-five lithographs completed in 1968 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Israel. With this commission – originally paid for by Samuel Shore, a New York publisher – Dalí was able to infuse his iconic style and artistic understanding with symbols of the rich history of Judaism.

Price of admission to Meadows Museum is $12. Non-SMU students pay $4 (and they don’t check ID!). Dalí: Poetics of the Small 1929-1936 is on display until December 9, 2018. This is an exclusive exhibit. Art fans and admirers of Dalí’s work don’t want to miss it!

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