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April 16, 2010
Vol. 51 No. 20

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Dali watercolor exhibit displayed in gallery

"Don't bother about being modern;" Salvador Dali said, "unfortunately it is the one thing
that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid."

The spring exhibition in the Lore A. Degenstein gallery serves as proof of Dali's advice.
Dali's 101 piece collection illustrating Dante Algiheiri's 14th-century epic poem, "The Divine Comedy," is being featured in the gallery through May 23.

The opening reception for the exhibition took place on Saturday, April 10 at 7 p.m. in the Degenstein Campus Center. Art historian and Dali Scholar Elliot H. King lectured to an audience of about 50 students, faculty and community residents about Dali's works, as well as his life as an artist.

King said "The Divine Comedy" is a 14,000-line poem written early in the 14th century that depicts Dante's perception of heaven, hell and purgatory.

"Dali created his 101 illustrations for a special edition (of the poem) to be published by the Italian government" in celebration of Dante's birth 700 years earlier," King said. However, when the idea was released, the Italians were outraged by the idea of a Spaniard being chosen to honor that anniversary.

Dali continued to paint his 101 watercolors for nine years, King said, confident someone would would be interested. Jean Estrade of Les Heures Claires signed a contract with Dali in 1959 and published the suite in 1964, King said.

"Dali created the illustrations using woodblock printing, which was a tremendous amount of effort," King said. Woodblock printing is done by rubbing or transferring the design onto a wooden block that becomes a small part of the overall illustration, King explained.
King said Dali's birthplace in Cadaques, a small town about two hours from Barcelona, explained why the majority of his early paintings are focused on landscape.

"The rocks in Cadaques are what got Dali excited and interested in the land," King said. This is also when his idea of a double image or perspective developed, King said.
By 1923, at the beginning of his surrealism period, Dali was a good artist; he moved to Madrid to study art and met Luis Bunuel and Jose Moreno, "two figures who also became very accomplished," King said.

By 1923, Dali had moved into his surrealism period, King said.

"Dali uses critical paranoia. This is looking at the world, deliberately misreading it and analyzing why," he said. King said that Dali thought that endless enigma was the center of everything.

"Dali was known as a 'first-class lunatic,' but this was only a small part of what he was about. He was known for his persistence of memory," King said.
In 1942, Dali turned toward Catholicism, King said, and began trying to "rationalize his thoughts within the church."

Dali became inspired by science, atoms and atomic bombs "as depicted through his work called 'La Madonna di Port Ligat,' in which everything is floating," King explained.

He also developed "a small obsession with rhinoceros horns," King said, "which he thought must be grown by God because they are created in logarithmic spirals."

King said that Dali viewed the unicorn as equal to the Virgin Mary, and the rhinoceros horn as related to the unicorn, which meant that the rhinoceros horn was a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

These and many other ideas of double images are apparent in the paranoid illustrations Dali created to accompany "The Divine Comedy," King said, due to his desire "to legitimize his religious work."

King explained that Dante's journey from hell to purgatory to heaven in "The Divine Comedy" is similar to Dali's transition from surrealism to religion. In Dali's illustrations that depict purgatory, surrealistic images are mixed with images of angels and rhinoceros horns.

The spring exhibition will be in the gallery through Sunday, May 23. The gallery is free and open to the public, and is open Monday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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