Wolfgang Paalen

Artist and Theorist of the Avant-Garde

by Amy Winter


Presents an erudite yet accessible study of Wolfgang Paalen, an important artist and theorist in the Modernist movements of the 20th century.

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November 2002


Pages 336
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Media, Television, and Radio

Both critic and artist, Wolfgang Paalen was a highly influential figure in the culture of the Modernist movements of the 20th century. His work significantly informed Abstract Expressionism, especially with his periodical ^IDYN^R, published from 1942-1944, which became a seminal work for painters of that time. This is the first book-length work to demonstrate his importance and bring together the contexts—philosophical, scientific, anthropological, political, and cultural—in which he worked. Thus it provides a study not only of Paalen himself, but of the relationships between modernist art movements of Europe and America, including Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism—and the cultural, social, and political histories in which they developed.

Carefully and thoroughly detailing the events of Paalen's life and the formation of his thinking, author Amy Winter shows how his biography, art, and thought come together in the six issues of ^IDYN^R, which continued an exploration initiated by the Surrealists and other avant-gardes, and which delved into many problems which have preoccupied art in the last two decades. Utilizing material gathered for the first time, including personal interviews and archives never before consulted, Winter offers a vivid portrayal of a painter, philosopher, critic, collector, journalist, editor, historian, and ethnographer—in short, a 20th-century renaissance man.

Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroductionTheoretical and Political Origins in Austria and GermanyÀ Paris: 1928-1935Through a Glass Darkly: 1936-1939Surrealism in Mexico/Mexico in Surrealism: Prelude to ExileThe New WorldNew York School DaysDYN 1 (April-May 1942), DYN 2 (July 1942), DYN 3 (Fall 1942): The First Three IssuesTotem Lessons: The Northwest Coast and the "Amerindian" Number of DYN 4-5 (December 1943), and DYN 6 (November 1944)Cosmic CreationThe New Man in Barnett NewmanChaotic MagnificenceBibliographyAppendices



...presents a thoroughly researched and closely written account of Paalen's life and practice....makes a valuable addition to the literature....General readers; graduate students; faculty.—Choice

[A]chieved bothb through theory and through practice, Paalen should count today as much as he did during his lifetime.—American Boook Review

[W]inter should be counted among the long list of talented women detectives....Whether we look from inside or outside the bubble, and however we describe or define that bubble,the incontrovertible evidence is in: Paalen deserves the mantle of the DYNamist, the man who devoted his life to the belief that the totemic object and the junction of art and science could reveal the untapped energy of the possible.—College Art Association


[This] is an impressive work of scholarship that will have tremendous appeal to anyone interested in 20th-century art, Surrealism in Paris and Mexico, and the development of Abstract Expressionism. Winter's study of the charismatic ^D'emigr^D'e artist, critic, and dealer spotlights his life and career and describes artistic and intellectual currents in Europe and the Americas, especially between the two world wars. Exhaustively researched, it is an immensely readable and well-illustrated book that restores Paalen as a major artist of the period and an influential scholar of modern and ethnographic art.—Eloise Qui^D~nones Keber^LProfessor of Pre-Columbian and Latin American Art^LThe Graduate Center and Baruch College^LCity University of New York

A wonderful contribution to surrealist scholarship that clearly situates Paalen at the vanguard of surrealist thought and innovation within essential biographical, historical, and philosophical contexts. Relying on new, previously unpublished sources, Winter gives an eloquent portrayal of an artist who revised European surrealism according to a New World aesthetic vision that significantly influenced the New York School.—Katharine Conley^LAssociate Professor of French and Italian^LDartmouth College

Through her study of Paalen, Winter has produced an impressive intellectual and cultural history, one that goes beyond the usual reach of art historical investigation. And such an approach is not only appropriate but also essential for an artist who must rank as one of the more sophisticated and original thinkers of his day. . . . The book is nothing less than a seminar in many of the issues that challenged the best minds of the twentieth century.—Paul J. Karlstrom^LWest Coast Regional Director^LSmithsonian Institute Archives of American Art

Wolfgang Paalen a painter who successfully practiced various styles also published strongly documented philosophical essays. With scientific and ethnographic reflections, he often ventured into virgin territory. He edited the broad cultural journal ^IDyn^R in Mexico where he lived for 20 years. He also lived in the US, France, Germany, and Austria. This study, the first on Paalen in English provides probing insights into his versatile career. This highly stimulating volume which covers so much new ground should appeal to a wide audience.—Ren^D'ee Hubert^LProfessor Emerita^LUniversity of California, Irvine

The art and life of Wolfgang Paalen have long awaited a scholar who would do them justice. Amy Winter's book elucidates the multifaceted achievements of this seminal figure in Modern Art and does so with an intellectual incisiveness that matches Paalen's own brilliant mind. A full understanding of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism cannot be had without reading this book.—Stephen Robeson Miller^LMugar Memorial Library,^LBoston University

Amy Winter has written the definitive book on Wolfgang Paalen. Grounded in years of extensive archival work and interviews, Winter's superb study reconstructs Paalen's career, illuminating his art and theory as well as providing invaluable insights into the various artistic milieus in which he operated--from 1920s Berlin to Surrealism in Paris and Mexico in the 1930s and his subsequent impact on young American artists in New York in the 1940s. This book is a vital resource for any scholar of the period and a major addition to the literature on modernism in general.—Linda Dalrymple Henderson^LDavid Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History and Distinguished Teaching Professor, The University of Texas at Austin

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