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Revision of the Surrealist Movement in the 1940s and 1950s – The Artist Kay Sage (1898–1963) and the 'American Dream' (DFG)

 

Research Project

 

Exhibition Poster at Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, M.A. (2018). Photo: J. Jäger
Exhibition Poster at Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, M.A. (2018). Photo: J. Jäger
The overall aim of the Research Project (DFG) is to establish a more accurate picture of the Surrealist movement, its aesthetics and semantics, as well as its social practices and exhibition strategies in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. This is achieved by means of a comprehensive analysis of a thus far marginalized artistic position. Reflection on the conditions and dynamics of transatlantic exchange provides insights into a potentially idiosyncratic survival of Surrealism and its 'dream constructs' in the USA – beyond a Modernism embodied in Abstract Expressionism, which continues to dominate the art histography of this period to this day. The project integrates itself into the research agenda of a Global Surrealism, which aims to contour both common and unifying as well as cultural-historical and local qualities of Surrealism. Additionally, it contributes to the pluralization of Modernism and its narratives by developing and visualizing supposedly marginal or subaltern positions, in particular of women.

 

This research project conducts an art-historical investigation and contextualization of the work of Kay Sage (1898-1963), an American Surrealist. The project aims to investigate the genuinely surrealist features of Sage's artworks, her different roles in the social fabric of Surrealist artists and the different stages of her life and career path. Using the concrete example of Sage's artistic work and her personal biography, the aim is to demonstrate and investigate which shifts and expansions in perspectives developed, which aesthetic and epistemic enrichments are bestowed upon the research field of Surrealism and whether it will be possible to see other, thus far equally neglected, positions.

 

One further objective of the project is the systematic investigation and analysis of surrealist dream constructs within the cultural-historical context of the United States in the 1940s and 1950s inspired by Sage's artworks and also drawing upon other artistic positions. Artists of the post-war Surrealism – inspired by texts written by, among others, Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, as well as by art-historical predecessor phenomena and genuine visual-artistic or art-political concerns respectively – have pushed the work on the 'dream' as a discursive and aesthetic construct. This contribution to a possibly specific American dream culture shall be explored for the first time.

 

 

Activities

 

Article (Jennifer Jäger): "'Painting is dead – long live painting!' Dalís homerische Apotheose". In: Katrin Dolle and Semjon A. Dreiling (eds.): SPACE ODDITIES. Die homerische Irrfahrt in Bildkünsten und Populärkultur, 1800–2021 (Europa – USA – Südamerika). Heidelberg (arthistoricum) [in preparation]
Lecture (Jennifer Jäger): "'A Bird in the Room'. Dystopian Dreamscapes in the Work of Kay Sage", Conference ʺISSS SURREALISMS 2021. Nuits blanches: Noches en Blanco: Around the Clockʺ, International Society for the Study of Surrealism, 11.-14.11.2021, Worldwide Virtual Conference Event 
Lecture (Prof. Dr. Sigrid Ruby): "Hein Heckroth - Surrealismus und Exil", on the occasion of the awarding of the Hein Heckroth Stage Design Prize, Hein-Heckroth-Gesellschaft Gießen e.V., 19.09.2021, Stadttheater Gießen
International Symposium: "Surreal Worlds – Surrealist Networks: Revisiting Women Artists Across Cultures and Media", Co-Organization: Andrea Gremels (University of Frankfurt) and Ingrid Pfeiffer (SCHIRN), 23.-25.04.2020, SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Call for Papers, announcement and program [cancelled on short notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic]
PhD Project (Jennifer Jäger): "Kay Sage (1898-1963). Artist and Patron of the Arts in the Surrealist Network of the 1940s/50s"

 

 

Research Team

 

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Sigrid Ruby
Research Assistant: Jennifer Jäger, M.A.
Student Assistant: Paulin Kemper

 

 

Duration

 

01.10.2019 – 30.09.2022

 

 

Links

 

Filed under: DFG, 2021