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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The persistence of surrealism at The Muck

The Muckenthaler Cultural Center presents “The Persistence of Memory: Salvador Dali and his Influence,” an homage to the surrealist painter featuring art inspired by the themes of his work intermixed with original Dali pieces, running from March 4 to April 8.

A report done by the USB Global Art Market said that about one-third of art galleries downsized their staff and 90% shut down their premises during the first six months of 2020.

Despite this slowdown, The Muck’s showcase has been sold out as of March 16. Employee Danny Torres said it has been the most popular exhibit he has seen in five years.

A shot of a few of many paintings within the largest room within the gallery.
A shot of a few of many paintings within the largest room within the gallery. (L to R: “Shallow Waters, Deep Dreams” by Curiot, “Untitled Marat Was Here” by Nicola Caredda, and “Round About” by Timothy Robert Smith. Photo credit: Sudabeh Sarker

The inspiration for the show began when The Muck acquired “Tristan and Isolde, Cup of Love,” an original painting by Dali, from an anonymous donor. CEO Farrell Hirsch brought in guest curator Kelly Chidester and began collecting both original and inspired pieces

Working with the Los Angeles-based Thinkspace Art Gallery and the Cal State Fullerton art collection, The Muck began bringing in different interpretations of surrealism.

The title of the exhibit references Dali’s most famous painting in which melting clocks adorn a deserted landscape. Upon its release in the 1930s, “Persistence of Memory” shocked audiences. Nearly a century later, artists take inspiration from Dali’s signature surrealism all the time, according to Chidester.

Salvador Dali&squot;s most famous painting, entitled, "The Persistence of Memory" (1931).
Salvador Dali’s most famous painting, entitled, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931). Photo credit: Flickr

This influence was clear across the entire gallery made clear with the complex shapes, detached arms of Curiot’s “Shallow Waters, Deep Dreams” and the deconstructed bust of “Difernciacion Reiterda” by Kaz Dos.

“Memory in a literal sense means going backward, but if it’s going to persist it needs to go forward,” Hirsch said. “Hundreds of years afterward his work is still groundbreaking work.”

While there were a few original Dali paintings hung within the building, The Muck also made the decision to also include works whose authenticity was called into question.

“Originally thought to be original works by an aging Dali, their authenticity has come into question; yet remain in the CSUF permanent art collection as a testament to the farcical and preposterous life and creative spirit of the artist,” Chidester said.

While the artwork had many of the physical characteristics of surrealism, they also touched on some of the psychological themes as well. Dali was not just a painter, but he was a sculptor and a theorist as well, inspired by the works of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

An empty room with two chairs for viewing the 2005 short experimental film titled "The Death of Salvador Dali" on the artist&squot;s encounter with Freud.
An empty room with two chairs for viewing the 2005 short experimental film titled “The Death of Salvador Dali” on the artist’s encounter with Freud. Photo credit: Sudabeh Sarker

To highlight this, a private corner with two chairs played a short film entitled “The Death of Salvador Dali” on a dramatized encounter between Freud and Dali and how to inject madness into the artist’s work.

One of the main features of the exhibit symbolized this intersection between psychology and surrealism. A large moving sculpture entitled “Inner Defense Mechanism Lamp” by Spenser Little featured a large figure with a moon face and a human head stomach opened up to reveal a man eating money and another man with a shotgun.

Spenser Little’s sculpture “Inner Defense Mechanism Lamp” Photo Credit: Sudabeh Sarker

“These works represent an escape from reality,” said The Muckenthaler employee Danny Torres, as he pointed to a piece entitled “Round About” by Timothy Robert Smith depicting spiraled and warped city landscape with people and vehicles walking around it.

Both Torres and Hirsch attributed the exhibit’s popularity not just to Dali’s name recognition, but also to the fact that The Muck is one of the few galleries that remained open during the pandemic. According to Hirsch, there is a demand to view art, and the reception to the show reflects that,

Tickets for the show can be found on The Muck’s website. Although it is sold-out, CEO Ferrell Hirsch said that they may add on more dates and times to account for increased demand. The show costs $5 for groups of four or fewer people.

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