Fruitmarket Gallery Presents Narcissus Reflected

The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, presents Narcissus Reflected an exhibition on view 22 April – 26 June 2011. Artists in the exhibition include: Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Claude Cahun, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Charles Henri Ford, Florence Henri, Jess, Yayoi Kusama, George Minne, Pierre Molinier, George Platt Lynes, Willard Maas, Paul Nash and Pipilotti Rist.

The myth of Narcissus, as told by Ovid, of a beautiful youth infatuated by his reflection in a stream, who pines away and is metamorphosed into a flower, is open to many interpretations and has captivated a, perhaps surprising, number of modern and contemporary artists. This group exhibition examines the potency of the Narcissus myth in surrealist and contemporary art, photography, installation, film and video. From Salvador Dalí’s painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) to Pipilotti Rist’s video installation Sip My Ocean (1996), the exhibition keeps in play the full variety of meanings of the myth, exploring, and seeking to explain, the enduring appeal of the Narcissus subject in art.

In surrealism, the use of the Narcissus myth reflects a preoccupation with myth in general, and Freudian psychoanalysis (in which the concept of narcissism plays a central part). Forming the centrepiece of the exhibition, Salvador Dalí’s famous painting is shown for the first time alongside the manuscript of the artist’s poem of the same name and preparatory drawings showing the evolution of the work. The exhibition also recreates Dalí’s 1938 window installation for the Bonwit Teller department store on the theme of the ‘Narcissus complex’. Famously, Dalí crashed through the window after an altercation over changes to the work made without his permission.

A counterpoint to Dalí’s use of the Narcissus myth is San Francisco-based artist Jess’, Narkissos (1976–90). This major work was intended as a homage to Gustave Moreau and also references the fin-de-siècle, a period which saw the introduction of the term ‘narcissism’ to psychology. Jess’ principally collage practice was inspired by Max Ernst and surrealism, but also shares affinities with Pop and appropriation art. While his works are in major public collections in the United States, he has rarely been shown outside his home country and this is an opportunity to introduce his work to UK audiences through his most outstanding, and best-known, work. It also shows the legacy of surrealism in contemporary art, and the ongoing potency of the Narcissus myth to artists.

The exhibition also includes a selection of surrealist photography and film, exploring the idea of doubling of the self, mirroring and reflection, which all relate clearly to the Narcissus myth. These ideas are restaged in Yayoi Kusama’s immersive installation Narcissus Garden of 1966, whose kaleidoscopic techniques of fusion, duplication and distortion of the body chime with the work of Pipilotti Rist and, like that work, are reminiscent of surrealist engagement with Narcissus.

Curated by David Lomas and Dawn Ades.

Image: Salvador Dalí, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” 1937. Oil on canvas; 82 x 109.2 x 8.5 cm. Tate: Purchased 1979. © Tate, London, 2011. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2011

The Fruitmarket Gallery
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