The Surrealist movement eroded barriers between waking life and dreams, between the conscious mind and subconscious. Now museum curators are borrowing a page when it comes to boundary breaking. They’re reexamining how surrealism and its presumed opposite, realism, might not have been such strictly defined camps. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art explores this notion in Real/Surreal, a traveling exhibition on loan from New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art (through April 27). This is a terrific show that challenges us to see familiar artists — and some lesser-known ones — in a new light.
Real/Surreal combines painting, photography and works on paper. One of the most arresting works, and one that best typifies the theme, is George Tooker’s 1950 painting The Subway. The painting is done in a realistic style and depicts a mundane subject — people amid the underground corridors and turnstiles of a subway station
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