This exhibition brings together etchings and drawings by the German surrealist Unica Zürn (1916-1970). Perhaps better known for her writings and her photographic collaborations with Hans Bellmer, Zürn was an accomplished visual artist in her own right. She created automatic drawings as well as paintings and sculptures, which were exhibited in four solo shows and alongside her better-known male counterparts in the 1959 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme. Her success was hindered, however, by the male-dominated surrealist world in Paris and the shadow cast by a lifelong struggle with mental illness.
The etchings in this exhibition, comprising Zürn’s Oracles et Spectacles series, were made after a series of drawings created by Zürn during a 1960 hospitalization caused by a clinically diagnosed psychotic episode. Zürn populated these immersive scenes with transformative creatures rendered in the delicate, linear style that became her hallmark. The dreamlike quality of her visual art also emerges as a pervasive theme in her writings. In the semi-autobiographical Dark Spring, for example, the protagonist endures life only through the refuge of her fantasies, where she feels safety and power as well as terror, the feeling she treasures most of all.
A selection of Zürn’s drawings appear alongside the Oracles et Spectacles etchings, including two original drawings for Hexen texte (Witches Text), a collection of etchings and anagrammatic poems published in Berlin in 1954.
For the press