Convulsive Beauty: Surrealist Photography and its Legacy

6 January - 5 February 2011

Convulsive Beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial or will not be. - André Breton

James Hyman Photography's newest exhibition Convulsive Beauty explores the legacy of the Surrealist's psychological, physical, spacial and sexual freedom.

The themes of this exhibition derive from an appreciation of the precedence given to photography within the Surrealists' visual practise and the appropriation and use of photography in its journals (including works by Atget, Brassao and Man Ray). These also provide a context for engaging with the more recent practise of Francesca Woodman in the early 1970s and Anna Fox in recent years, both of whom, like the Surrealists, place the female predicament at the heart of their work.

A Surrealist engagement with psychoanalysis and its focus on studies of female hysteria and sexuality is also played out in the emotionalism of both Surrealist and mid-twentieth century cinema. Convulsive Beauty addresses this through the inclusion of photographs of Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Jane Fonda in heightened states of agitation and arousal.

Highlights include:

Brassai's photographs recording sculptural objects fashioned by Picasso.

Man Ray's frontispiece for the Surrealist magazine Minotaur, which comes from the archives of its publisher Skira.

Kertész's bizarre use of juxtaposition to render strange a portrait bust and air-conditioning unit.

A photograph documenting John Lennon and Yoko Ono's performance Happening in the Sack which directly echoes Man Ray's Enigma of Isidore Ducasse in which the artist wrapped a sewing machine in cloth, making the concrete object a 'secret'.

Anna Fox's Country Girls (in collaboration with Allison Goldfrapp) which reverberate with a charge that recalls Duchamp's last major work Etant Donnés: a tableau visible only through peep holes that pictures a nude woman in the grass.