Raoul Ubac (Belgian, 1910-1985)
Gelatin silver print, Image: 17 x 22.9 cm (6 11/16 x 9 in.); Paper: 18.2 x 24.1 cm (7 3/16 x 9 1/2 in.). John L. Severance Fund 2007.154
Ubac’s Penthesilea series (1937–39) is named for an 1808 play by poet Hermann von Kleist about the queen of the Amazons, the female warriors. This print, the finished work, is a photograph of a thick collage of cut-up photographs set on a black background and re-photographed using darkroom manipulations, including solarization. Bits of bodies, rope, and wood can be discerned but the end product is distant from reality, in keeping with its mythological origins. The chaotic composition and fragmented, disfigured bodies convey the frenzy and horrors of battle, a subject that would soon become all too real in Europe.
París y los Surrealistas. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Spain (February 18–May 22, 2005); Museo de Bellas Artes Bilbao, Spain (June 20–September 18, 2005).
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