Las Pozas panoramas

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Photo by Carlos Ernesto Guadarrama Muñoz.

How soon things change. In 2006 when I wrote something about Las Pozas, the unfinished concrete fantasia constructed by Edward James at Xilitla in the Mexican jungle, there was little information about the place on the web. A couple of years later photos had appeared on Flickr and Monty Don had been there with TV cameras for the BBC’s Around the World in 80 Gardens. Now, thanks to 360cities.net, we have a collection of panoramic views inside James’ platforms, plazas and stairways to nowhere. See the complete set of views here.

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Photo by Jose Luis Perez.

Edward James described himself as a poet (and is credited as such on his gravestone), but he’s far better known as one of the primary patrons of Surrealist art and a lifelong proponent of the Surrealist ethos, hence Las Pozas whose construction occupied him up to his death in 1984. In addition to being the model for Magritte’s La reproduction interdite (1937), James also converted Monkton, his home in England, into a Surrealist showcase. It’s a place I’ll be writing about at greater length when I find the time.

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Photo by Jose Luis Perez.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The panoramas archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Return to Las Pozas
Las Pozas and Edward James

Leonora Carrington, 1917–2011

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Self-portrait (1937–38) by Leonora Carrington.

Imagination and fantasy were two of the tools women artists used in the early decades of the 20th century to force their way into a male-dominated art world. The proliferation of illustrated books provided a creative platform in the Edwardian era for women shut out of art movements whose aesthetics might be avant garde but whose attitudes to sexual politics were either ignorant or reactionary. It was only with the advent of Surrealism that a notable body of women artists emerged in the field of painting and sculpture, not only Leonora Carrington but her almost namesake Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim, Kay Sage, Valentine Hugo and others. Part of this was the tenor of the time, of course, but Surrealism had no choice but to be open to anyone who came calling; if you’re going to let dreams and irrationality dictate the debate then everything that was previously fixed is up for grabs including gender dominance and sexuality. Leonora Carrington had a longer career than her contemporaries, and also distinguished herself as a writer of fantastic novels and short stories. Dalí aside, it could be argued that among the original Surrealists it was the women who stayed true to the project in subsequent decades. Max Ernst was a lover of Leonora and later married Dorothea Tanning but he left Surrealism after the Second World War for other styles of painting.

In Carrington’s work, mystical forces and surging instincts overpower the reign of reason. This is rebellion and liberation in the true surrealist sense. It is not the angry, testosterone-driven smack in the face typical of the high-profile showmen of surrealism. Rather, it is a low-key mystic subversion powered by the intrigues of seductive sibyls, sorceresses, and priestesses. (More.)

Among the obituary notices surfacing there’s a piece by Leonora’s cousin, Joanna Moorhead, who wrote a couple of years ago about her search for her celebrated relative, and a notice in the Telegraph. Ten Dreams has a small gallery of her paintings.

For Leonora Carrington by Peter Lamborn Wilson
• Coilhouse: Leonora Carrington – 6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011

Previously on { feuilleton }
Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
Return to Las Pozas
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women
Las Pozas and Edward James

Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist

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La Menace (1994).

Two paintings by Princess Marsi Paribatra, a member of the royal family of Thailand who lists Dalí, Arcimboldo and Titian among her artistic influences. If it seems surprising that a princess should not only be an accomplished painter but also be possessed of a distinctly vivid imagination we might ask why this is the case. There’s no reason why a member of a royal family shouldn’t be as good a painter as anyone else although it’s the case that here in Britain our views of royalty are inevitably tainted by the uninspiring members of the current House of Windsor. Prince Charles in particular is a singularly dreary and frequently philistine figure, and also a painter whose daubs would never have received any attention at all were it not for his being born into the right family.

This hasn’t always been the case. It used to be that being an aristocrat gave you the free time and the wealth to indulge no end of manias and eccentricities. The British Isles are littered with architectural follies of various kinds built to appease the whims of rich landowners; William Beckford (1760–1844) is renowned for having written the Gothic melodrama Vathek and also for having built the lavish (and unfortunately short-lived) pile of Fonthill Abbey. In the 20th century we had Edward James (1907–1984), a lifelong champion of Surrealism who spent much of his later life building Las Pozas in the Mexican jungle at Xilitla, a concrete fantasia which looks like something dreamed up by Antonio Gaudí and JG Ballard. James collected the work of Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning and I’d imagine him being equally entranced by some of Marsi Paribatra’s paintings. The recurrence of skeletal figures in her work invokes the Mexican Day of the Dead traditions which always excited the Surrealists.

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No title or date available.

Dali House has more about Marsi Paribatra’s life and art while further examples of her paintings can be found here and here. Thanks again to Monsieur Thombeau for pointing the way!

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
Return to Las Pozas
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women
Las Pozas and Edward James

Ballard and the painters

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Jours de Lenteur (1937) by Yves Tanguy.

Behind it, the ark of his covenant, stood two photographs in a hinged blackwood frame. On the left was a snapshot of himself at the age of four, sitting on a lawn between his parents before their divorce. On the right, exorcizing this memory, was a faded reproduction of a small painting he had clipped from a magazine, ‘Jours de Lenteur’ by Yves Tanguy. With its smooth, pebble-like objects, drained of all associations, suspended on a washed tidal floor, this painting had helped to free him from the tiresome repetitions of everyday life. The rounded milky forms were isolated on their ocean bed like the houseboat on the exposed bank of the river.

The Drought (1965).

Following my observations yesterday about Ballard’s Surrealist influences, this post seems inevitable. By no means a comprehensive listing, these are merely some of Ballard’s many art references retrieved after a quick browse through the bookshelves earlier. I’d forgotten about the Böcklin reference in The Crystal World. The Surrealist influence in Ballard’s fiction is obvious to even a casual reader, less obvious is the subtle influence of the Surrealist’s precursors, the Symbolists. André Breton frequently enthused over Gustave Moreau‘s airless impasto visions and many of Ballard’s remote femmes fatales owe as much to Moreau’s paintings as they do to Paul Delvaux. The Symbolist connection was finally confirmed for me when RE/Search published their landmark JG Ballard in 1984; there among the list of books on his library shelves was that cult volume of mine, Dreamers of Decadence by Philippe Jullian.

Continue reading “Ballard and the painters”

Return to Las Pozas

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Las Pozas is the unique fantasy/folly/Surrealist paradise which Edward James spent years building (and never quite finished) in the Mexican jungle of Xilitla. When I wrote about the place a couple of years ago decent photos were hard to find. Flickr has now filled the gap with this extensive set of views by Lucy Nieto. Lots of great details and some remarkable shots which show the scale of the structures, as does the picture above (note the people).

Previously on { feuilleton }
The magic kingdom
Las Pozas and Edward James