If you didn’t make it to the Manchester Art Gallery to see the spectacular “Angels of Anarchy” exhibition, all is not lost—a splendid book from Prestel is available, subversive and sublime.
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism, edited by Patricia Allmer, is an extensive survey of women Surrealists, covering the early twentieth century to the present. It’s packed with 100 color images by thirty artists, along with illuminating essays.
It was always ironic that a radical movement that attacked hierarchies was “blind to its own gender politics.” Indeed, no women artists were officially listed as members, and were often relegated to the role of muse. Of course, women artists contributed important Surrealist works, such as Meret Oppenheim’s fur-covered cup and saucer, the paintings of Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and others. They are all here, of course, but what makes this edition truly special is the inclusion of many lesser known, yet significant practitioners. For example, the American photographer Francesca Woodman, whose haunting self-portrait appears on the cover. Angels of Anarchy is an important work that sets the historical record straight, and introduces artists who have for too long been unknown. This collection plants the seeds for future books and explorations. In these pages, anarchistic angels rise up to make mischief. The art they’ve left behind is powerful, confrontational, and (to use Breton’s term) “marvelous.”