Jennifer Mundy (ed.)
Princeton University Press
Surrealism: Desire Unbound is a collection of essays published to accompany an exhibition held at the Tate Modern London in Fall/Winter 2001 and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in early 2002. The book and exhibition focuses on how love and the associated sense of desire (the sexual and the emotional) are, to the Surrealist artists and writers, liberatory forces unleashed through their poetry, image-making, and object-building practices.
This book contains twelve essays including some by major figures in the fields of art history and art criticism such as Hal Foster and Dawn Ades (a major scholar of Surrealism) that focus on various aspects of desire in regard to the work of the Surrealist movement. Foster, just to note one example, discusses fetishism via Freudian theory as it may be read into Hans Bellmer’s bizarrely sexualized dolls.
Much of the book is made up of full-colour images of Surrealist works of art and accompanying straightforward expositions of how different Surrealists tackled this problem of desire. Hence certain Surrealists are represented more than others, with their overlord, Andre Breton, as the most heavily represented of the group. One essay (Love of Books, Love Books by Vincent Gille), for example, noted how each of his major works of literature (L’Amour Fou, Nadja, Arcane 17) were inspired by a different love affair. Hans Bellmer’s doll sculptures are, of course, featured prominently in Desire Unbound, as are the gender play of Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp via the ‘Rose Selavy’ photographic persona (discussed, in particular, in Dawn Ades essay ‘Surrealism, Male-Female’. One section of the book titled Lives and Loves reads as celebrity gossip of the Surrealist avant-garde, detailing all of the love affairs and sexual relationships between different members of the group, and some of the art that came out of these pairings. The catalogue does highlight the contributions of women to the group although a LOT of the book is focused on men and their desires.