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What national critics are saying about High’s Dalí exhibit

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The High Museum of Art appears to be engineering a deeper appreciation for Salvador Dalí, according to reviews and commentary from national publications and blogs sparked by its exhibition “Dalí: The Late Work.”
Critical response is running favorable (with some reservations), much like the take of AJC freelance critic Catherine Fox, who termed the show “illuminating, fascinating and fun.” The New York Times’ recent review by staff critic Roberta Smith, headlined “Antics Aside, a Dalí of Constant Ambition,” was especially head-turning with its strongly positive assessment.
A look at some opinions:

  • Roberta Smith, The New York Times: The High exhibit “largely lays waste to the presumption that late Dalí is bad Dalí.

“Dalí is overwhelmingly present — in photographs, on film, in quotations emblazoned on the wall — and is often fairly obnoxious, eyes abulge, signature mustache adroop.  [However,] once the art takes over, this is a terrific, even shattering show.
“Had Dalí died in 1938, he would have had a very nice, neat, narrow niche in the history of art. By living and working as long as he did — he stopped painting in 1983 and died six years later — he left a legacy that is incalculably richer, psychologically and artistically, and much more instructive.”
“It is sad that this show will not travel. …It is well worth the trip to Atlanta.”

  • Kelly Crow, Wall Street Journal (from a feature story on the escalating auction prices commanded for late works by major artists): “The portrait of the artist that emerges in the exhibit is far more complex than the artist’s cartoonish mustache implies. Much of Dalí’s work from the 1950s and 1960s references nuclear physics, reflecting his era’s Cold War anxieties, while the more popular artists of those years — Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko — were focusing on color and rhythm, intellectual constructs less specific to the everyday world.

“In his lifetime, Dalí was heavily criticized for designing jewelry and collaborating on short films with Walt Disney, but these mass-market moves no longer seem heretical, thanks to Pop.”

  • Oscar Humphries, Apollo (a British arts magazine): “More successful [than ‘Late Renoir’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art]. … When the increasingly commercial Dalí was disowned by the Surrealists, his focus shifted, and the ‘classical’ works he subsequently made, from 1940 until his death in 1989, are laden with Catholic symbolism.

“Sometimes kitsch, sometimes breathtaking, this exhibition adds momentum to the Dalí renaissance that began not with a museum show but in the auction houses.”

  • Paul Chimera, Meeting Dalí! blog (meetingdali.blogspot.com): “ …exceeded my expectations and makes it crystal clear that Salvador Dalí was light-years ahead of his time and inarguably one of history’s most gifted artists and super-intellects.

“I’d waited literally 40-plus years to see, most especially, ‘Santiago El Grande’ [a monumental painting that includes Dalí’s vision of the Crucifixion, an homage to Saint James (the patron saint of Spain) and an atomic explosion] and was mesmerized by its beauty and the immense scale of this 1957 masterwork.”

  • Homa Nasab, Artinfo.com (in an interview with curator Elliott King): “I must admit that the show completely altered my view of Salvador Dalí as a purely surrealist painter — to a point of being annoying since I sometimes think of Surrealism as artists creating clever works for the sake of being clever.”

On view
“Dalí: The Late Work”

Through Jan. 9. $18; $15 students and seniors; $11 children 6-17; free for children 5 and younger and members. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; until 8 p.m. Thursdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays. High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4444, www.high.org.

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