In Gallery Wendi Norris’ first New York exhibition since changing its gallery model from a single location in San Francisco to mounting exhibitions all over the world, Wendi Norris presents Leonora Carrington: The Story of the Last Egg, the first solo exhibition in New York in 22 years for the renowned Modern artist.
At a time when art historians and the market are re-examining the role of women in the story of Modern art, this landmark exhibition invites a new, more contemporary examination of Leonora Carrington and her legacy. Assembling more than 20 paintings and six sculptures by the British-born Mexican-exile, Leonora Carrington: The Story of the Last Egg displays the artistic and literary imagination of one of Modern art’s most original voices. The exhibition includes paintings and sculpture from the 1940s to the 1970s, and culminates with a display of six masks she made for her unrealized play, Opus Siniestrus: The Story of the Last Egg. The magical tragi-comedy, written in 1970, conjures a world in which all women have died except one, a “colossally fat old lady of 80, the ex-madam of a brothel,” who gains possession of the last surviving human egg, and holds the fate of the planet in her hands. Titling the exhibition after the play seeks to emphasize and celebrate the artist’s lifelong preoccupation with themes of fertility, ecology and female power. Starting her artistic career in 1930s Paris among the Surrealists, Carrington never formally joined them. Instead, she forged her own visual language based on a philosophy rooted in feminism, ecology, mysticism, and magical realism. Her visual and written imagery often centered on these themes, as well as what she called zoomorphism (giving humans the qualities of animals, rather than vice versa), magic, alchemy, mythology, and the destructive nature of mankind. Threaded throughout the exhibition is the symbol of an egg, used to represent fertility and the universe, which to Carrington were one and the same. “The Egg is the macrocosm and the microcosm, the dividing line between the Big and the Small,” Carrington wrote in Down Below (1943), a memoir of her experience in a Spanish Sanatorium. One of the earliest works in the show, the painting Down Below (1940), is a visual representation of the same experience. The exhibition also includes Green Tea (1942) the first painting Carrington made after arriving in New York, and the first which divides the composition in two, showing an underworld beneath the green pastoral landscape, illustrating her understanding of the axiom ‘as above, so below.’ In addition to eggs, many of Carrington’s paintings also feature female figures, white horses, rocking horses, mysterious landscapes redolent of violence or horror, and multiple narratives that suggest unseen forces at play. Her stories often feature creatures consuming one another and being transformed into entirely new forms. She resisted easy explanations of her often puzzling psychologically charged images. She felt that to reduce her work to collections of symbols or influences “violated the mystery of art.” Carrington was nothing if not resolute in her convictions. In the 1970’s she became a founding member of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico, designing a poster for the group entitled Mujeres Conciencia (1972). Exhibiting for the first time the original painting behind the print, the iconic picture takes on new power. In the image Carrington subverts the patriarchal myth of Adam and Eve, depicting instead the dualistic white and black goddesses sharing the apples and returning nature’s kindness. One of the latest works in the show, Sanctuary for Furies (1974), is a mysterious exploration of the myth of Nyx from ancient Greece. Furies was the Roman term for Erinyes, who were the protectors of matriarchy and who wreaked vengeance upon anyone who murdered a woman. In the painting, Carrington wrote “Erinys (sic) sanctuary, Keep Out! Atropos at work.” This is the third and most ambitious Leonora Carrington exhibition mounted by Gallery Wendi Norris. The gallerist knew Carrington for the last eight years of the artist’s life, and has worked with her art and legacy for more than 17 years, organizing exhibitions, placing works in museum collections, presenting symposia and events, and publishing scholarly catalogs.