Sunday, March 31, 2013

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: [Mwananchi] Kenya’s Supreme Court Renders a Bad Ruling

People, my responses are in  blue
In a message dated 3/31/2013 5:52:04 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes
Kenya's Supreme Court Renders a Bad Ruling
That is a matter of opinion; not a statement of fact.

I respect Kenya's Supreme Court Justices but I beg to disagree with the Justices. They rendered a bad decision on Saturday. Here are 6 reasons why.

First, given the highly charged political atmosphere, they should have stayed above the fray, instead of inserting themselves into it by declaring or confirming Kenyatta or Odinga as the winner. Now they risk being seen as "compromised" or "partisan," favoring one candidate over the other.

The Kenyan Supreme Court, constituted under Article 140 and subject to clause (4) and (5) of Article 163 of the Constitution, has exclusive  jurisdiction to receive, hear and rule on disputes relating to the elections of persons to the Office of Presidency. Its job is not premised on sticking a finger to feel  which way the political winds blow.
That contested elections normally occur in "highly charged political atmosphere"  is like saying rain wets. But the court is not expected to shrink from its constitutional mandate due to partisans poised with daggers drawn.  A party to the dispute may loose as a normal outcome. The notion that  the Kenya Supreme Court ruling is tantamount to favoritism makes mockery of the institution. The double standard  is unexplained given that Gore vs Bush occurred in no  less a feverish political atmosphere but  the US Supreme court ruled to end the stalemate. 

Second, the SC ordered a re-tally of votes from 22 polling stations out of a total of 33,400. The sample was too small. Admittedly, the Supreme Court had only 6 days to make a ruling and, further, CORD (the Odinga camp) may have suggested a scrutiny of those 22 polling stations. However, if that small sample revealed evidence of irregularities, logic suggests that the large remainder must also contain irregularities that must also be scrutinized. If a portion of the meat is spoilt, would you cut it off and eat the rest?

Similarly, the whole of Florida was not subject to a recount. Apparently, Floridians did not died of spoilt meat eaten.  The recount occurred in only three counties that reported exceptional circumstances: Broward; Volusia and Orange counties covering 175,037 of the approximately 6,000,000 ballots cast.

 Third, the decision does not erase the widespread suspicion that there were nefarious attempts to manipulate the results and rig the election. It is a bit of a stretch to attribute the irregularities to "clerical" or "human error." How does one explain:

1.     The sudden break-down of IT or electronic transmission of results, necessitating manual tabulation?

2.     The break-down of biometric equipment, necessitating voting without biometric verification?

3.     The mysterious expansion of over 1 million voters in the electoral register for the presidential election but not for the parliamentary?

I am afraid, these suspicions will linger and no one knows what they will morph into.

Where on planet earth are legal decisions meant to erase suspicions, which, by nature, are guided by intense instincts without proof while rulings are premised on evidence? Even in recent US elections, there were reports of machine malfunction; it happened suddenly, no warning on a preplan to fail. Here is  a headline:
Partisans were in courts from Pennsylvania to Ohio for alleged conspiracies to defraud the electorate, including voter suppression. The spectacles of butterfly ballots, switch from machine to manual counts under torch lights, etc. were spectacles to behold. Nobody suggested "animal errors" were committed when recount yielded new figures.
All manners of suspicions envelope elections even in advance democracies. What is new in Kenya?
Fourth, Kenya is dangerously polarized politically. Uhuru's win of 50.07 of the vote is one the narrowest majority and the "minority" is nearly 50 percent of Kenyans who did not vote for him. That means nearly half of Kenyans are not going to like the Supreme Court decision and will still feel aggrieved. This is dangerous because, in Africa, it takes a small group of determined mal-contents to wreak havoc and mayhem -- let alone half of the electorate.
If Kenya wanted candidates to win by landslides, the provision would be formal; not arbitrary yardsticks.
 John Kennedy led by .17%;  Clinton was elected with a plurality vote, skies did not fall in the US and there were no aggrieved centers.
In 1996 only 49% of US of eligible voters went to the polls. In 2012 the figure was 57.5%.  We are looking at the fact that in some cases half of the US electorate did not even participate in choosing who governed them. The turnout for the 2013 Kenyan election was 86.91% .
In the 2000 US elections, the elected president lost the popular votes. Given the logic, more people who voted did not like the Supreme Court decision. What could be more dangerously polarized politically?
The sovereign people of Kenya defied foreign journalists looking for havoc and mayhem, and conducted a peaceful election with a record turnout.
In 1985, the late General Samuel Doe held elections in Liberia.  When it appeared that he was losing, he ordered the vote count halted. Ballot boxes were then transported to a secret location at the army barracks where the votes were tallied and Doe declared the winner.  Charles Taylor refused to countenance this contumely and started a "bush war" with only 100 men. The rest is history. Similarly in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni started out with only 27 men.
These are irrelevant comparisons for caricaturists. No incumbent in Kenya aborted the vote count  and squirreled into the wilds with ballot boxes. Raila conceded and Kenya's democratic transition is a measure of her civic maturity, however nascent.

Fifth, the Supreme Court decision does not ease but would rather exacerbate tension in the country. Kenya is also deeply polarized along tribal and religious lines. Gikuyus voted for Kenyatta, Kalenjin for Ruto and Luo for Odinga. Religion or tribal politics is a very dangerous proposition in any African country. In Kenya, there is a perception that the Gilkuyus have dominated both the political and economic scenes. Of Kenya's three presidents since independence in 1963, two – Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki -- have been Gikuyu; Daniel arap Moi is Kalenjin. Further, the Kenyatta family are the largest land owners in Kenya and among the richest in Africa.

Black people gave Romney zero vote, rednecks gave Obama zero votes. US is deeply divided by  red and blue states to the extent that candidates do not even bother to campaign in hostile states.  The term "battleground states"was coined to identify the handful of states  were elections are won or lost. It gets worse. For example, unless a jurisdiction is gerrymandered in a state, local candidates of certain backgrounds cannot win.
People, I cite these to indicate that Africans are typically projected in worse light when the phenomena abound in other places.
What has Uhuru as a landowner got to do with anything if his wealth did not disqualify his candidacy?  Many of the early US presidents were rich landowners, including plantations and slaves owners. 
In Nigeria, tribal politics led to the Biafran War (1967-70). The Igbo, through their own hard work and determination, had become very successful, dominating senior positions in government, educational institutions, etc. But it bred tribal resentment and persecution, which propelled the Igbo to secede. Over 3 million – mostly Igbos – died in the ensuing war. In Rwanda, tribal politics led to the 1994 genocide, in which 1 million Tutsis were slaughtered. In Ethiopia, tribal politics has stunted that country's growth prospects. In Ivory Coast, it was the politics of religion. The country was split into the Muslim North and Christian South after the Nov 2010 elections. Similarly in Mali, where the Muslim Tuaregs have long chafed under Christian South domination and discrimination. In Kenya, the Mombasa Republican Council, a Muslim group, is demanding secession. They were responsible for a series of attacks on polling stations in the March 4 elections. Clearly, the Kenyan Supreme Court cannot claim to be unaware of these developments. Note: Nearly all the civil wars in post colonial Africa were started by politically marginalized or excluded groups.
Very novel duty for the Kenyan Supreme court judges to study wars in order to render legal decisions that must be based on jurisprudence.
Sixth, the Supreme Court's decision – wittingly or not – pokes a finger in the eye of the ICC, which has indicted Kenyatta and Ruto for crimes against humanity.  To be sure, the ICC indictment was not the issue being challenged at the Supreme Court but by confirming that Kenyatta and Ruto won the elections, the Supreme Court has indirectly passed judgment on the case. It is as if the Supreme Court is saying the ICC can take a hike. The Supreme Court will not cooperate in bring Kenyatta and Ruto to justice as it has certified them as winners of the March 4 elections. And, further, the ICC indictment does not disqualify Kenyatta to be president of Kenya when in fact the Supreme Court should have debarred the two from contesting the presidential elections until they cleared their names.
Bingo! The ICC was vetoed by the sovereign people of Kenya. The  suggestion that the Kenya Supreme Court could do the bidding of the ICC is an insult to the collective intelligence of Kenyans. 
The ICC indictment puts Kenya in a diplomatic quandary if Kenyatta becomes president. He may be shunned diplomatically and risks arrest if he travels to Europe. It is unlikely President Obama will ever invite him to the White house or be seen with him.
If the ICC is serious in its impartial pursuits, it had the chance to catch Bashir of Sudan when he landed in plain daylight in Tripoli and within the reach of western forces. But because Bashir provided troops to overthrow Gaddafi, human rights activists screamed for his arrest to no avail. But the same ICC has been harassing  African governments to catch Bashir when he steps foot in their countries.
Who is a fool to who? 
US needs Kenya to fight terrorists and pirates, Kenya is the biggest economy in East Africa and Uhuru would be pinning to visit White House? Has  Africa not gone past the Kaffir boy era?
At any rate, the SAFEST decision the Supreme Court could have rendered was to order the Electoral Commission to re-tally the votes in ALL polling stations since the sample of 22 polling stations showed some irregularities and if neither candidate secured 50 percent plus one, to schedule a run-off.
Opinions are okay  but the decision of the Supreme Court must be respected. 
A run-off would mop up the stench of tribalism as it would force candidates to canvass for votes or court tribal groups other than their own. It would also put to rest the suspicion that the March 4 vote was manipulated or rigged. My preference would be a re-run of the entire elections because of the high number of rejected ballots. Voters were confused. This time, however, a new Electoral Commissioner should be employed. [The current one, Isaack Hassan, cannot be trusted.] The difference in cost of running a run-off and a complete re-run is likely to be same as it is the same electorate voting again. If a portion of the meat is spoilt, the entire meat should be thrown out.
Mopping stench of tribalism is hardly a reason to hold new elections. The extrajudicial experiment maybe unconstitutional. 
 Since 99% of the voters were not confused given that the rejected ballot made up less than 1%, the cost of redoing an election may outweigh any benefit. The assumption that only Raila's supporters were confused is the only hope to change the outcomes. But it is a degrading slap to think a group of voters is more stupid.  
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    USA Africa Dialogue Series - JM Coetzee's official biography to hit shelves this summer

    JM Coetzee's official biography to hit shelves this summer
    New book explores Coetzee's closely-guarded private life, almost two
    years after the death of its author JC Kannemeyer

    The first authorised biography of the novelist JM Coetzee, in which
    the Nobel laureate discusses personal subjects including his
    daughter's illness, will be published in the UK this summer almost two
    years after the death of its author, JC Kannemeyer.

    An intensely private man, who has twice declined to collect a Booker
    prize in person, Coetzee was persuaded to collaborate on the biography
    by the late professor of Afrikaans and Dutch at Stellenbosch
    University. Kannemeyer, who died on 25 December 2011, was the first
    researcher to be given complete access to Coetzee's private documents,
    including the manuscripts of his 16 novels. He also spoke at length to
    the author, and was put in touch by Coetzee with the author's family,
    friends and colleagues. Although Coetzee has said "all autobiography
    is storytelling, all writing is autobiography", and has published
    three volumes of fictionalised memoir, this is the first time he has
    given his full cooperation to a biographer.

    "My letter of 9 June 2008 to John Coetzee, in which I asked his
    permission to undertake his biography, must have reached him while he
    was still writing away at Summertime. My request may have raised a
    smile. Here he had been since April 2005 in Adelaide writing about a
    fictional English biographer, Mr Vincent, engaged in the preliminaries
    for a biography of the dead author JM Coetzee. And here appears a real
    biographer applying to write a real biography," writes Kannemeyer in
    his book, JM Coetzee: A Life in Writing. "This biographer does not, as
    one would expect, emerge from the ranks of the English literary world,
    but from the much smaller province of Afrikaans literature. Perhaps
    the very fact that the request was coming from outside the sphere of
    English literature may have appealed to Coetzee, with his contrarian
    take on things."

    Kannemeyer travelled to Adelaide in March 2009 to begin interviews
    with Coetzee, while the author was hard at work on his second revision
    of Summertime. "He answered all my questions meticulously, and
    impressed me as a man of integrity," he writes. "From the manuscripts
    that I perused in his office in the second week of my stay, I also got
    the impression of an incredibly hard worker who had spared no effort
    to develop and deploy his talent. The various versions, up to
    fourteen, that had been produced of Disgrace provide some measure of
    the demands Coetzee makes of himself as a writer."

    Kannemeyer covers everything from Coetzee's early years to his time in
    Britain and America, the 30 years he spent back in South Africa and
    his time in Australia since 2002. Its independent publisher Scribe
    promised that the biography would "correct many of the misconceptions
    about Coetzee", looking at "aspects of his personal life kept largely
    hidden until now, including his son's early death, the collapse of his
    marriage and his daughter's illness". The book, translated by Michiel
    Heyns, also looks in depth at Coetzee's novels.

    "In the course of our conversations I … developed a certain compassion
    with this intensely private and reserved man," writes Kannemeyer.
    "Even on highly sensitive topics, he kept strictly to the facts. Only
    when he spoke of the illness of his daughter, Gisela, was there a
    measure of emotion, and, at first, reticence. On this topic I got the
    impression – for the only time in our conversations – that he was
    withholding certain information from me (which he later provided). Add
    to this the sorrow he experienced at his father's dishonesty and
    alcoholism, the life and death of Nicolas, and the death from cancer
    of Philippa, and one stands amazed that someone could experience so
    much unhappiness and yet sustain himself and continue his work."

    The biography was published late last year in Coetzee's native South
    Africa and in Australia, where the author now lives. It has received a
    mixed reception. "It is seldom that one can say that a book approaches
    magisterial status, but JC Kannemeyer's biography of JM Coetzee is
    such a case," praised the Financial Mail. A review in the Mail and
    Guardian was much harsher, finding that the book "suffers from many
    problems, including a star-struck author".

    Scribe's publisher and founder, Henry Rosenbloom, said the press had
    found itself "in a difficult situation for the original Australian
    edition in late 2012. The biography was a magisterial work, but the
    author had died, the editor had been slaving over a massive
    manuscript, and we got the typeset files late from the South African
    publisher – they and we were in danger of missing both our print
    deadlines. Our production department saw a number of obvious errors
    that they tried to correct on the fly, but they knew there'd be others
    that they'd had no time to find or fix."

    For the UK edition, which will be published on 18 June, there was time
    to be "as thorough as possible, without trying to re-edit the
    manuscript", said Rosenbloom. "My wife proofread the whole book,
    double-checking facts and references, and I went through it as well to
    correct grammatical errors, and stylistic inconsistencies or
    infelicities. I think we've done justice to the author and his
    subject, in unusually difficult circumstances.

    Funmi Tofowomo Okelola

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    USA Africa Dialogue Series - In the spirit of Easter, Senate President, David Mark, comes out in support of gays and lesbians

    In the spirit of Easter, Senate President, David Mark, comes out in support of gays and lesbians

    Abuja-Nigeria/Associated Press

    As Nigerians celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Nigeria's Senate President and potential 2015 presidential candidate, David Boanventure Mark, a devout Catholic, told reporters in his Easter message that in the spirit of forgiveness he now "supports gays and lesbians".

    "If Catholics could elect an Argentine Pope (the first Pope not from Europe) who am I to discriminate against gays and lesbians in Nigeria?" Mark asked.

    "I have given the whole issue of gays and lesbians a serious thought and I have a completely new attitude," Mr. Mark said.

    Read more:

    Chido Onumah
    Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy,
    P.O.Box 6856, Wuse 11, Abuja, Nigeria

    USA Africa Dialogue Series - In the spirit of Easter, Senate President, David Mark, comes out in support of gays and lesbians

    In the spirit of Easter, Senate President, David Mark, comes out in support of gays and lesbians

    Abuja-Nigeria/Associated Press

    As Nigerians celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Nigeria's Senate President and potential 2015 presidential candidate, David Boanventure Mark, a devout Catholic, told reporters in his Easter message that in the spirit of forgiveness he now "supports gays and lesbians".

    "If Catholics could elect an Argentine Pope (the first Pope not from Europe) who am I to discriminate against gays and lesbians in Nigeria?" Mark asked.

    "I have given the whole issue of gays and lesbians a serious thought and I have a completely new attitude," Mr. Mark said.

    Read more:

    Chido Onumah
    Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information Literacy,
    P.O.Box 6856, Wuse 11, Abuja, Nigeria

    USA Africa Dialogue Series - The Mother Of All Celebrations In Honor Of Mwalimu Ali Al'amin Mazrui

    The Mother of All Celebrations in Honor of Mwalimu Ali Al'amin Mazrui's 80th Birthday and 50th Year of Publishing
    Good Greetings Family Members:
    I pray that your day is going very well. I am looking forward to meeting you in Binghamton, New York for The Mother of All Celebrations in honor of Mwalimu Ali Al'amin Mazurui's 80th birthday and 50th year of publishing.
    Brief Information on the Event:
    Dates:  April 5 & 6, 2013
    Venues:  Binghamton University Downtown Center Campus and Holiday Inn Arena Binghamton, New York
    Events:  Papers/panels on the theme "Global Africa, Triple Heritage and Pax Africana: Looking Back and Looking Forward" and Dinner
    In Peace Always,
    Abdul Karim Bangura/.

    USA Africa Dialogue Series - Surrealism Made Fresh: By Sanford Schwartz

    Surrealism Made Fresh
    APRIL 4, 2013

    Sanford Schwartz

    Salvador Dalí: Study for 'The Image Disappears,' 20 1/4 x 26 inches, 1938.

    "Drawing Surrealism" is an exhibition that puts us in two minds, which befits an art movement that sought the release of unconscious drives. The Morgan Library and Museum's show, organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is one of the few major efforts ever to look at the wide range of drawings, collages, and other kinds of work on paper done both by well-known associates of Surrealism such as Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and René Magritte and by the many other artists and writers drawn to the movement at the time. Including pictures made by figures from Eastern Europe, the Americas, England, and Japan, it is a jampacked, illuminating, and lavishly engaging event. Even before getting close to the drawings, which were made primarily from the middle of the 1920s into the 1940s, one is given the pleasure, simply in walking into the galleries at the Morgan, of seeing many smallish Surrealist works, sporting frames of every description, hung—as if in the living room of a knowing collector—in invitingly rhythmic ways.

    Max Ernst: Les hivernants de la Grande Jatte (The Winterers of La Grande Jatte), 3 1/4 x 5 1/8 inches, 1929

    On one wall, for instance, we find a cluster of drawings of heads by André Masson (a crisply linear robotic mask), Jacques Hérold (a softly grayed charcoal of a headlike shape suggesting fossils and woodlands), and Lee Mullican (meticulously drawn thorny leaves forming an armored visage). There are also an expansive John Graham drawing of a smiling and prepossessing woman with crossed eyes and a Pavel Tchelitchew drawing of a young man's head with visible blood vessels everywhere turning his face into a jungle. Bringing together a group of heads may be an obvious idea. Here, though, where each work is subtly different in texture, tone, and size from the others, the effect is to kindle an interest in artists who are probably little known to most viewers.

    The works in the show in general, however—especially as Leslie Jones, in her essay in its accompanying catalog, guides us through the meanings they held for these artists—were intended to be formally pathbreaking and imaginatively disorienting, even discomforting. Does this mean that the pictures have lost their sting and are items that we merely savor? To a degree, yes. On the other hand, the exhibition, in its informality and intimacy, gives Surrealism a freshness and excitement that an all-encompassing presentation of the art, which would include a huge variety of paintings and photographs—and the sometimes enigmatic and sometimes merely tacky sculptural pieces the Surrealists called "objects," plus displays of the group's many kinds of publications—might not achieve. At the current show we can almost believe we are encountering the movement for the first time.

    Surrealism has entered the language as a synonym for almost anything that seems odd, uncanny, or freaky. For some, the very word connotes a profane, or carnivalesque, lifting of the lid on hidden, even repressed, thoughts and feelings. But initially this art was romantic and revolutionary in its goals. A little like Dada, which was more a spirit in the air than a movement, and probably put as much energy into cabaret performances and the issuing of statements as the making of artworks, Surrealism was about the need for radically new approaches to writing, art, and experience itself.

    André Masson: Ville Cranienne (Skull City), 19 x 24 inches, 1940

    Dada was, in essence, an intendedly ephemeral rebuke of the society and conventions that had laid waste to Western Europe with the atrocities of World War I. Surrealism, which was underway already in the early 1920s in Paris, came out of the same disgust with the attitudes that resulted in the war. But where Dada flippantly said nothing mattered, Surrealism sought to find, foster, and celebrate precisely the impulses that traditional or generally accepted thinking seemingly said had no place at the table. It was after instinctive, irrational awarenesses, which might come from dreams, or from accepting results derived by chance—or from a receptivity to what is taboo—that could shake up and alter our sense of everyday reality.

    Surrealism was in good measure the brainchild of André Breton, who had initially studied medicine and worked in psychiatric wards during the war. It was his background as a scientist of sorts that helped give the movement its character of an ever-changing, and always carefully monitored, experiment in living. Breton embodied a paradox of Surrealism. His role was to instigate and welcome the spontaneous, the illogical, and the inexplicable. His goal, it would seem, was to extend personal liberty. Yet he was a born guru and organizer with a flair for holding meetings, getting out position papers, marshaling his cohorts, and banishing the insubordinate. His efforts helped make Surrealism, as much as any movement of any era, a group endeavor.

    Jacques Hérold: Tête cristallisé (Crystallized Head), 24 3/8 x 18 5/8 inches, 1942

    Breton and his associates at times worked jointly on writing poems and, eventually, in making drawings. As Mary Ann Caws notes in her Surrealism(2004), a helpful compendium of artworks and writings related to the movement, group activities included "sleep séances to induce automatic speech while in a trance." There were even meetings every day at six in the same café (they always lasted an hour and a half), and in the early 1930s everyone drank the same drink. (It was different in the winter and the summer.) The collective spirit didn't, however, attest only to Breton's need to control. Surrealism shared with Dada a desire to dispense with vaunted notions of authorship—with the aura, in the arts, surrounding training and mastery, uniqueness and the special, personal touch. These qualities were seen as components of the egotism that produced the war.

    Although we may think that some of the deeper contributions of Surrealism are the paintings of Miró, Magritte, Dalí, and others, painting in itself was initially something of the enemy for many of the Surrealist (and Dada) artists. For figures who tended to be left-wing in their politics, oils on canvas were objects that all too easily could be seen as trophies of capitalism. Drawings, on the other hand, or anything done on paper, set down with any materials that were near to hand, suited a movement that in the beginning attracted writers as much as visual artists and that, opposed to artistic virtuosity for its own sake, saw in works on paper a way for anyone, trained or not, to record at the moment whatever was bubbling up from within.

    At the Morgan's exhibition, with its many different kinds of works on paper, we aren't looking at artists who have necessarily forsworn painting. But many of them are being seen in the early stages of their working lives; and so Surrealism, it seems, is being encountered in a state of relative purity, even innocence. We are, in effect, at a testing ground both for seeing life in surreal, or upside-down, ways and for finding new ways to make art.

    Frida Kahlo: El Verdadero vacilón (The True Vacillator), 8 1/2 x 10 3/4 inches, circa 1946-47

    Surrealism's chief artistic invention is probably the "exquisite corpse" drawing. It is created when a group of people pass around a piece of paper, and each participant, unaware of how the folded sheet has been handled by the previous person, adds his or her own contribution and sends it along. (The name "exquisite corpse" comes from a line in a poem that, made in the same group fashion, began with these words.) That most exquisite corpse drawings, including those in this exhibition, end up showing weird but not brilliantly weird standing figures has never dampened the game's allure. The often could-be-better-next-time results may be why the Surrealists, we are told, found the game "addictive" and why we still like playing it.

    The corpse drawings on hand are certainly no match for the other kinds of works on display. They include collages, automatic drawings—doodles, essentially, in which the doodler goes as far as he or she can—and calligrams, or word drawings, comprised solely of words, letters, or made-up words in a made-up script. There are works of frottage, formed by putting a piece of paper over a textured surface of some sort and rubbing it with a pencil, say, to bring up that surface. Another approach is called decalcomania. Here an inky medium is placed on a nonabsorbent piece of paper and then a clean sheet is pressed down on it. You pull up this sheet and you may get a mess or something inkily suggestive. Not least in this inventory are dream images, which include such traditionally drawn works as John Graham's cross-eyed woman and Tchelitchew's man with blood vessels. For many viewers dream images are what Surrealism is really about.

    Attesting to the collective, or egalitarian, tenor of Surrealism (or simply reflecting the difficulty of obtaining loans), no one artist dominates the present show. Viewers of a 1993 exhibition called "Max Ernst: Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism," which came to the Museum of Modern Art and showed the German artist to have been, especially during the years 1919 to 1922, around when he was turning thirty, one of the most inventive collagists who ever lived, will certainly wonder why, in this exhibition, he doesn't stand out more. It was the Cologne-based Ernst—who sent Breton, in 1921, before Surrealism actually existed as a movement, some of the collages and drawings he had been making—who gave Surrealism some of the key elements of its identity.

    Jackson Pollock: Untitled (Drawing for P.G.), 18 7/8 x 24 3/4 inches, circa 1943

    Using photos from newspapers and engravings from catalogs and manuals and turning them, via seamless cutting and pasting (and sometimes coloring), into mesmerizing and rather confounding little stories of a kind, Ernst excited the Parisians because, reassembling materials he had found, he wasn't, in the fullest sense, inventing his artwork himself. More than that, he was the first artist, I think, to connect the insouciant aspect of Surrealism (and of Dada) to a distinct body of images—and images that in an elusive yet persistent manner are about sexuality and can be nightmarish.

    The collages by Ernst on view at the Morgan are merely all right. But he isn't exactly missed, because there are a number of engaging and unfamiliar works on hand that are indebted to him. The Chilean painter Roberto Matta, for example, known for his enormous canvases showing planets or asteroids held in suspension, is seen here in a winning photocollage from 1936 with the very Surrealist title Wet Sheets. It presents the outer-space world he was always creating but minus the gauzily synthetic colors and textures that so often make his paintings less powerful than they ought to be. Even better, perhaps, is an outright humorous Ernst-like collage called The Chemist by Adriano del Valle, who was a Spanish poet. It shows the collage method to be an excellent way to illustrate someone in the process of losing his mind.

    But probably every viewer of this show will come away with a highly particular group of favorites. My (long) list would include Minutes (1943), a tense, mysterious, and softly shaded pencil drawing by the little-known American painter Kay Sage that appears to show columns in a cathedral crowding one another to the point of airlessness. Yves Tanguy (who was married to Sage) makes an impact with an untitled 1936 work of decalcomania—a matter of voluptuous undulant pitch-black and grayed lines—that beautifully suggests the sea (his recurrent theme) at night. Grace Pailthorpe, an English psychiatrist, presents a vigorous and unhackneyed explosion of the id in Ancestors II (1935), in which waves surging this way and that become faces, teeth, fingers, and bodily swellings. And a Frida Kahlo drawing of a web of shapes stands out for having, on the bottom, in a large script, the wonderful title El Verdadero vacilón, meaning The True Vacillator.

    Grace Pailthorpe: Ancestors II, 11 3/4 x 13 1/2 inches, 1935

    Unlike anything in the exhibition, Dalí's diaphanous 1938 pencil drawing Study for "The Image Disappears," in which we see, depending on how it catches our eye, a man with a beard or a woman holding a piece of paper in her hand, is an especially impressive example of the double images he made on and off for a number of years. They are undeniably tricky (and they bother some viewers because it is hard, if not impossible, to see fully the two images at once). But for me the purely visual tension they create gives these pictures a formal strength that is not so different from the compositional power of a work by Mondrian. Asking us, moreover, to take in two different images almost simultaneously, they could be said to make concrete Surrealism's quest, which in some way resembles the quest of psychotherapy, to find an alternative reality to the everyday one we think we are saddled with.

    Surrealism remained a functioning movement of sorts until perhaps the early 1960s, or sometime before Breton died, in 1966. Its last real impact on art, though, probably came in the 1940s, when a number of American artists then finding their voices, including Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, were stimulated by Surrealism's belief that the unconscious was a reservoir of energies waiting to be tapped. An untitled Pollock drawing from around 1943 is the most dynamic and richly textured such tapping, or automatic drawing, in the show. It is a record of one disparate skirmish, as it were, after another that ends up having, remarkably, a breathing unity. It isn't, in date, the last work in the exhibition, and it is not precisely a work of Surrealism, but it is a kind of fulfillment of an avenue of Surrealist thought.

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