Thoughts on Surrealism II

By Alexandra A Jopp

In the 1930s, Surrealism ceased being merely a Parisian phenomenon as political instability and impending war in Europe led members of the movement to travel overseas. Andre Breton, for example, moved to Latin America to promote French culture and continue his efforts to build the Surrealist movement internationally. While in Mexico, Breton and other members of his group worked with Leon Trotsky to try to create a worldwide political and ideological movement in which Trotsky would be the chief player. Their “International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art” was short-lived, however.

Some of the Latin American Surrealists, in addition to transferring the experience of the French school to their native lands, wrote in French. This commitment to the movement’s Gallic origins made it more difficult for Surrealism to deepen its roots in Spanish-speaking countries. For instance, when I think of Latin America, I associate it with Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who said, “In Mexico surrealism runs through the streets,” meaning it is reality – not surreality – that is of interest to him. In addition, I have not seen much influence of Freudian psychology in Spanish literature.

It is interesting to note the effects that new environments had on Surrealists in exile. For artists, the move could have been liberating, since the change could provide new sources of inspiration. Also, it is noteworthy that we see more women artists in Mexico than in Paris. Was this because the times had changed or because in Mexico, Europeans felt freed from the stereotypes of feminine identity that were standard in their countries of origin? Or was it a combination of time and place? I would have been interested to learn more about the roles and conditions of women artists and writers living in places other than their places of birth.