Dr. Charles Cramer

About Dr. Charles Cramer

Charles A. Cramer is Associate Professor Art History at Suffolk University in Boston, MA. His publications include Abstraction and the Classical Ideal, 1760-1920 (University of Delaware Press, 2006), and “Alexander Cozens’s New Method: The Blot and General Nature,” Art Bulletin 79, no. 1 (March 1997): 112-129.

The Surrealists saw collage as a means to enact what they considered to be the fundamental poetic activity of the unconscious mind, the combination of disparate entities to create a new thing.

Surrealist Techniques: Collage

Automatism was a group of techniques used by the Surrealists to facilitate the direct and uncontrolled outpouring of unconscious thought.

Surrealist Techniques: Automatism

Traditionally regarded as a means to create factual visual records, photographs were used by the Surrealists both to document Surrealist occurrences and to call into question the nature of reality.

Surrealist Photography

Surrealist exhibitions broke down conventional distinctions between art and non-art, and thwarted the consumption of creative works as commodities.

Surrealist Exhibitions

The role of women in Surrealism was complex and contradictory. The movement both infantilized and empowered women, treated them as erotic objects and supported their sexual emancipation, subjected them to the male gaze and validated their own self images.

Surrealism and Women

Unlike Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts, the Surrealists had no interest in the therapeutic potential of Freud’s theories. They were interested in the unconscious as a creative source, not in the possibility of healing neurosis through psychoanalytic therapy.

Surrealism and Psychoanalysis

“Every word that is spoken and sung here says at least one thing: that this humiliating age has not succeeded in winning our respect.”

Dada Performance

The goal of Surrealist writings and art was to “ruin” the logical, practical, and moral reasoning that structures human understanding of reality.

Surrealism: Origins and Precursors

The purpose of the readymade is fundamentally conceptual, not aesthetic or technical. Any objection that the object is not beautiful, or did not require any skill to make, misses the point.

Dada Readymades

The founder of Zurich Dada, Hugo Ball, once described Switzerland as “a birdcage, surrounded by roaring lions." When Dada spread to Germany following the end of World War I, it entered the lion’s den.

Dada Politics

The term pataphysics refers to works that imitate the language and imagery of science and technology, but make them dysfunctional or absurd.

Dada Pataphysics

Dada is nonsense, but very carefully produced nonsense, targeted at very specific effects: to mirror the senselessness of the universe, to shake the reader/viewer out of their seductive but false systems of belief, and to encourage us to dance to our own personal boomboom.

Dada Manifesto

Because the use of prefabricated, mass-produced source material violates conventions of artistic skill and originality as well as aesthetic harmony, collage was in many ways a perfect medium for Dada iconoclasm and social protest.

Dada Collage

Framing other cultures as ‘primitive’ ultimately suggests the need for external aid and guidance, and thus helps to justify Western colonial practices.

Primitivism and Modern Art

Cubism instigated significant developments in twentieth-century sculpture, challenging the European sculptural tradition in terms of form, media, and often subject matter.

Cubist Sculpture II

Guitar demonstrates the breakdown between art and life that becomes a key theme of twentieth-century sculpture.

Cubist Sculpture I

Although the style implies a rapid or even slipshod painting process, Open Window, Collioure was carefully orchestrated in every aspect, from the composition to the color relationships and the paint application.

Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure

Kandinsky’s interest in apocalyptic subject matter is related to his belief that humankind was on the verge of a cataclysmic change from the current, materialistic epoch to an “Epoch of the Great Spiritual.”

Kandinsky, Apocalypse, Abstraction