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Friday, November 2 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
2.C. Mina Loy and Transatlantic Surrealism

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PANEL. Mina Loy & Trans-Atlantic Surrealism
Artist, poet, playwright, novelist, inventor, and entrepreneur, Mina Loy (1882-1966) moved in the circles of Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism and migrated among major metropolitan centers of avant-garde activity, including Paris, Florence, Rome, New York, London, and Berlin, from the 1910s to the 1950s. Loy’s interest in avant-garde experiment was shaped by her progressive attitudes on feminism, gender, and sexuality, and led her to self-consciously assume a critical position on the margins of these movements. Loy objected to the sexism of the Surrealist movement, and never identified as a Surrealist, yet was nevertheless inspired by Surrealism, writing in a 1931 letter to Julien and Joella Levy that it was the only art movement that "could be wholly satisfactory" (Fort, In Wonderland). Although Loy played an active role in Surrealist circles in both Paris (1921-36) and New York (1937-53), she has been relegated to minor parts in Surrealism’s histories and theories: she is missing from most Surrealist histories and exhibitions, and remains marginal even in recent studies of women and Surrealism. As a former participant in New York Dada and widow of Dada icon Arthur Cravan, Mina Loy was held in high esteem by the French Surrealists. From 1931-36, following her daughter Joella’s marriage to Julien Levy, Loy served as the Paris agent for the Levy Gallery, which not only held the first Surrealist exhibition in New York in 1932, but throughout the 1930s and 1940s served as the premier American gallery for Surrealist work of all kinds. As the agent in Paris who commissioned art and arranged its purchase and transportation to Levy, Mina Loy was central to Surrealism’s trans-Atlantic career and reception in the United States. But she was also involved in Surrealism’s New York manifestation as an artist who exhibited her paintings at the Levy Gallery in 1933, and as a writer who engaged Surrealism in her poetry and in her novel Insel, which she began in Paris but completed after she moved to New York. In New York Loy would continue to reflect on and transform Surrealist ideas and techniques in her poems and assemblages of the 1940s and early 50s, many occasioned by her experience living on the Bowery. Loy’s dialogue with the Surrealist movement begins in the 1920s, but her engagement with Surrealist ideas and practices is anticipated by her earlier work shaped by her affiliations with Futurism and Dada, and continues into the 1960s in the U.S., by which point many of the Surrealists in New York during World War Two had returned to Europe. Just as Mina Loy’s work benefits from analysis in the context of Surrealism, it also invites us to rethink Surrealism’s history, definition, and trans-Atlantic career.
“‘Easily as an aria relayed across the Atlantic’: Surrealism in transit in Loy’s 'Visitation of Insel'”
Sarah Hayden
University of Southampton

Mina Loy’s Insel—the hallucinatory prose portrait she confected out of the skeleton of the German surrealist painter, Richard Oelze—is often referred to as her surrealist novel. However, it is in the ‘Visitation of Insel’—the excised one-time addendum to that novel—that she set about trying to ‘to demonstrate how [the surrealist] “worked”.’ In the 1930s, Loy, in parallel with Surrealism itself, made the trans-Atlantic transfer from Paris to New York. In the same period, she was developing an avatar of surrealist artisthood that overcomes the ambits of both time and space. Written in or around 1938, the ‘Visitation’ text figures the surrealist as a transtemporal, bilocating entity. Her ‘Sur-Realist Being’ stretches across time: existing at once in the deep past, the future and everywhere (or when) in between. Along the way, he sheds the prostheses made redundant by his ongoing though already-achieved evolution. Summoned by unconscious drives, activated by repressed needs, he is ‘awakened by desire—eclipsed by ennuie’. Galvanizing, magical, even medicinal, he materializes where and when needed. His significance, as exemplar of a surrealism that transcends its location and moment, remains unexplored. Taking up this recently recovered fragment and re-orienting Loy’s writings and paintings around it, my paper will use the ‘Visitation of Insel’ to excavate the potentiality of Mina Loy’s unrooted, unending Surrealism.

"Mina Loy, Surrealist Painting, and the 1933 Julien Levy Gallery Exhibition"
Susan Rosenbaum
University of Georgia

Mina Loy's reputation today rests chiefly on her poetry. Yet she began her career as a painter, exhibiting work at the Salon D'Automne, the Futurist Exposition in Rome, and the Independent Artists Exhibition in New York, and continued to paint, draw, sculpt, and create collages and assemblages through the early 1960s. Her engagement with Dada and Surrealism in Paris and New York was particularly generative, resulting in solo exhibitions at the Julien Levy Gallery (1933) and the Bodley Gallery (1959). Unfortunately Loy's visual art is scattered in private collections and many pieces have been lost, contributing to her marginal place in art history. This paper will discuss Loy’s 1933 Levy Gallery exhibition as well as a sequence of paintings from the 1930s that were never shown, with the aim of demonstrating their importance to the history of women and Surrealism. From 1930-36 Loy was immersed in Surrealist visual art as Paris agent for the Levy Gallery, and her 1930 painting Surreal Scene and her novel Insel offer critical, feminist reflections on Surrealism's treatment and representation of women, even as she adapted Surrealist techniques. Loy's 1930s paintings depict hybrid creatures and what Loy biographer Carolyn Burke calls "primordial shapes in the act of becoming." Photos taken by Maurice Poplin (Beinecke Collection, "Julien Levy Gallery 1933"), depict two works exhibited in 1933, but chiefly document a


Sarah Hayden

University of Southampton

Susan Rosenbaum

University of Georgia


Erica Delsandro

Senior Fellow, Humanities College

Friday November 2, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Room C. Vaughan Literature: Willard Smith Library (ground floor)