Whether they were seeking a new context and inspiration for their art or fleeing from strife in Europe, many in the twentieth-century avant-garde long held a fascination with Mexico. Overlapping with the last few weeks of a Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, this show brings together three paintings by Kahlo—including the modestly sized yet famous La Venadita (The Little Deer), 1946, and an unusual oil-on-metal composition framed in Oaxacan tin titled The Survivor, 1938—with pieces from a whole circle of lesser-known Surrealists who came to live and work in the country during and after World War II. In this compact but brilliant survey are several collages dated to 1935 from the Mexican artist Agustín Lazo and the Peruvian artist César Moro, which appear similar to Max Ernst’s. But two of the best-represented figures here are painter Remedios Varo—who originally hailed from Spain and possessed a meticulous style reminiscent of medieval masterpieces—and the British painter and writer Leonora Carrington.
Among the Carringtons is an egg tempera on Masonite, Les Distractions de Dagobert (The Distractions of Dagobert), 1945, a labyrinthine representation of events (and hallucinations) from the life of Dagobert I (ca. 605–639), one of the last rulers of the Merovingian dynasty. Varo’s oil, Hallazgo (Discovery), 1956, included in the artist’s first solo show held in Mexico City that same year, is a stunning scene of fairy-tale wonder rendered with astounding precision and sensuous texture, exhibited here for the first time in the United States. Fans of Julien Nguyen and the trend of mysticism in contemporary art would do well to pay heed to their foremothers here, and with the visionary Hilma af Klint breaking records with her recent retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, surely New York should have a major Carrington or Varo exhibition, stat.
— Paige K. Bradley