By: Valerie Suter
March 27, 2014
Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 at the Menil Collection in Houston, TX, is the first major museum exhibition to focus solely on the breakthrough Surrealist years of Belgian artist Rene Magritte, originator of some of the most iconic images of the 20th century (the above painting, la Victoire, embodies his characteristic use of symbolism to convey meaning and is marked by his distinctive aesthetic).
Our very own Minh Nguyen, co-founder of ZBC, had the pleasure of visiting the exhibit recently and took in the span of Magritte’s work on display. The show traces Magritte’s early years working in Surrealist circles in Brussels and follows his development during this seminal period as he began experimenting with the physical conventions of painting itself, whether cutting up canvases as in Les Perfections celestes, or altering existing objects a la Duchamp. Each one of the finely-wrought and deeply meaningful works in the exhibit sheds light on the myriad ways in which Magritte was able to reach full development as a Surrealist, and each piece is testament to the fact that by Magritte’s own admission it took him “forty years of reflection and twenty hours of manipulation” to paint a picture.
The show culminates in Magritte’s work leading up to the beginning of World War II, which of course irrevocably changed the entire world as well as Surrealist movement, and offers a natural endpoint to the period during which Magritte defined himself exclusively in terms of his Surrealist practice. The pieces on view in this breathtaking exhibition reveal the depth and breadth of Magritte’s imagination and playful experimentation, his stylistic influences and his boldly innovative surrealist concepts and techniques. Each sensitively-rendered, thought-provoking piece sheds light on his practice as a uniquely influential figure in 20th century art whose work we will continue to cherish for its unique ability to inspire, enlighten, and transform.