Surrealism and its Afterlife in American Art, 1936-1986


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project re-writes the history of twentieth-century American art through the lens of Surrealism. Moving beyond studies that have shown the impact of the Surrealists in exile on the burgeoning New York art world of the 1940s, this study demonstrates that Surrealism was embraced by American mass culture before its key members emigrated to the US, and continued to have a profound impact in the US long after the movement had dissolved. Though Surrealism was ignored in dominant modernist narratives where Cubism and Abstract Expressionism reigned, it came to represent a major underlying force of American art well into the 1980s as artists, critics, and historians used Surrealism to guide ideological debates over the role of commercialism, museums, politics, and photography in contemporary art.