Salvador Dali at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art-”Dali: The Late Work”

A highlight of my current visit to Atlanta has been our visit to the High Museum of Art for their current exhibit, “Dali: The Late Work.” It follows his work after he was expelled from the surrealist movement in 1939.  Much of the work derives from the Salavador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida which I visited as a teenager and have vivid memories of.  I have long been a big fan of his work and was pleased to introduce it to my family.   The rest comes from the  Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, Spain.  The exhibit will remain on view at the High until January 9th, 2011.

I really got a kick out of introducing Dali’s work to my two young children, ages 5 and 7.  I can honestly tell you that they really concentrated on Dali’s work.  It was a combination of the colors he used, various images they could point out in the paintings and the immense amount of detail and humor to discuss in each one.  His famous icons included melting watches, double images and everyday objects set in odd contexts  I’d like to think that the experience will encourage my children to view the world differently moving forward.  My seven year-old daughter left the exhibit proclaiming her new found profession that she wants to undertake as an adult: ARTIST.  The exhibit must have had an effect on her.  As for my five year-old son, he stopped at each painting for several minutes with my husband to discuss the detail.  He has never paid so much attention in a museum in his life.

The exhibit explores Dali’s legacy.  It features 40 paintings, drawings, videos and other Dali works.  This exhibit is actually the first major exhibition devoted exclusively to his later career, and some of the paintings (“Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina.” “Christ of St. John of the Cross,” “Santiago El Grande”) haven’t been publicly displayed since the late 1950s.  For example, “Assumpta  Corpuscularia Lapislazulina” is a large painting that features Dali’s wife, Gala, as the Virgin Mary dematerializing into Heaven and hasn’t been on view since 1959.   The exhibit explores his adventures into Catholicism, his concept of “nuclear mysticism,” his fascination with optical effects, his relationship with his wife,  and his parlay into Hollywood (remember Hitchcock’s dazzling dream sequence in “Spellbound” and a movie that took 40 years to complete, “Destiono”?) and pop culture (particularly his relationships with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Williem de Kooning).

It all starts out with a history of Dali’s signature mustache. It played a central role in his success and the exhibit has a chart of its evolution from a thin to thick.  It seemed to get thicker as he got more successful and he treated it in jest.  It was really part of his burgeoning art enterprise.  Then the exhibit launches into a series of incredible photographs for Dali taken by photographer Phillippe Halsman.  One of my favorite of these photos is on the left, Dali Atomicus. The photographs are an intimate look into the life and career of Salvador Dali, and they are wacky and wonderful).

Then the exhibit moves into some earlier works to give visitors some background, such as “Femme Couchée” as well as those most associated with the Surrealist movement, including “Morphological Echo” and “Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image.”  From there, the exhibit progresses to Dali’s exploration of “nuclear mysticism,” which reflects two recurring influences on Dali’s late work — his return to the Catholic Church and nuclear physics.  “The Madonna of Port-Lligat”” and “Santiago El Grande” illustrate this concept.

The final section of the exhibition centers on Dali’s pop art period.  It features portraits of American high society figures, films, holograms you view with 3-D glasses, jewelry, magazine covers and even a chess set in which the pieces are molds of his fingers.  I really enjoyed reading and hearing about Dali’s profound effects on Hitchcock, Warhol, amongst many other famous figures.  Seeing the dream sequence that he created for Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” again definitely left a mark on my mind.  I went through a Hitchcock-obsessed period as a teenager and loved seeing the scene again, with quotes by Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck about the master himself written on the walls.

Before we left, the kids paid a visit to the Greene Family Learning Center.  They happily played in a spacious room divided into the following sections: Building Buildings, Making a Mark, Telling Stories, Sculpting Spaces, and Transforming Treasure.   The museum has an abundance of activity for kids listed on their web site.

Dalí: The Late Work remains on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta through January 9.  Ticket information is posted here.

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