Fantasy: The Mystery of the Ordinary

By Jo Phillips


The Museum of Modern Art‘s newest special exhibit, The Mystery of the Ordinary, follows Magritte’s fantastical artistic journey as he spurned the confines of rationalism and delved deep into the Surrealist movement. The collection of photographs, periodicals, collages, and over 80 of Magritte’s paintings completed between 1926 and 1938 largely depict mundane items, elevated to fantasy by Magritte’s signature contextual twists. In this vein, Magritte blends the lines between reality and the imagined, the assured and the dubious, the disturbing and the disturbed in the shocking and thought-provoking style that became crucial to his identity as the self-described inventor of “the surrealist painting”.


Magritte’s paintings often contained a philosophical edge, perhaps most famously The Treachery of Images (1929), where Magritte depicts an image of a pipe with text below denying the object that name. During Magritte’s three years in Paris (1927-1930) he developed his flair for unexpected juxtapositions, aesthetic improbabilities, and paradoxically playful depictions of the banal that marked his career as Belgium’s foremost Surrealist artist. At times explicitly violent and sexual, The Mystery of The Ordinary skews and contradicts the ordinary to unsettle the viewer and challenge their perception of reality.

The Mystery of the Ordinary can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York until January 12th, and will be at the Art Institute of Chicago from June 24, 2014 – October 13th, 2014.

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