DYN

In the spring of 1942 the New York art world witnessed the result of Paalen’s intense work in the first years of exile in Mexico – the art journal DYN (derived from the Greek κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν – “that which is possible”). In its first issue he publicly announced to his friend Breton his Farewell to Surrealism. In the second issue he scandalised his former advocate again by publishing a survey on Dialectical Materialism and an article with the provocative title The dialectical Gospel, which caused a scandal among the New York Surrealists. The art historian Meyer Schapiro then organized a symposium on dialectical materialism, with the Surrealists in Breton´s apartment in New York, which revealed nothing but the inadequate knowledge of the artists on this field. In DYN Paalen theoretically hedged his concept of possibility on various levels, with quantum theory, with his own concept of totemism, gestalt theory, with his criticisms of dialectical materialism and western dualistic concepts, with his analysis of cave painting, and so on. By means of his journal, with a total of five issues published in Mexico between 1942 and 1944, he temporarily advanced to be one of the most influential art theorists in the wartime period. Even Breton admitted in 1944 that Paalen´s criticism of Surrealism was justified and that “we (the Surrealists) have left the whole licence to Paalen, who could say whatever he liked, without having the means to say something against or at least put something at his level. Paalen is winning on the whole line.”

In seven large essays and countless smaller articles and reviews he discussed in detail the topical concerns of the young New York artists and, in response, received their full attention. Also his long article Totem Art had considerable influence on such artists, as Martha Graham, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, mainly because of the new conception of considering totemistic art as part of ecstatic action and ritual with its psychic links to generic memory and matrilinear ancestor-worship. With the exception of Totem Art, all essays are republished under the title Form and Sense by Robert Motherwell in New York as the first issue of the series of writings titled Problems of Contemporary Art in which also the first papers of the later Abstract Expressionists, like Possibilities, were published. Paalen’s short sojourns in New York and the two solo exhibitions made him known as a painter in artist’s circles, however his predominant absence from the New York art scene and the wide reception of DYN and Form and Sense fostered his image as a kind of intellectual secret agent primarily exerting indirect influence on the events through his intensely discussed ideas.

In a note with the title America has a new art movement (the first authentic art movement here) Barnett Newman listed Paalen together with Pollock, Rothko, Hoffman, Gorky, Baziotes and Motherwell as “The men in the new art movement”; Motherwell appears with a question mark, while Paalen is listed twice, once with the adding “New” (probably dividing Paalen´s surrealist from his DYN-works).

The German art historian Andreas Neufert, who has extensively explored Paalen´s life and work, suggested in his 2015 biography on the artist, that DYN and the New York surrealist journal VVV were widely inspired by each other and can be seen partly as a hidden correspondence between Breton and Paalen. This assumption has been already denoted (but not fully explored) by Yve-Alain Bois in 2004 in his contribution “1942a – The depoliticization of the American avant-garde…”

 

 

©Succession Wolfgang Paalen if not otherwise stated. The artwork and photographs are protected by copyright. It’s posted here in accordance with fair use principles

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