This was the first Tanning exhibition since Birthday and Beyond, the retrospective that the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted in 2000 to mark their acquisition of Tanning’s celebrated 1942 self-portrait, Birthday. In the 1940s, when she was one of the painters in Julien Levy’s stable, Tanning painted within the idiom of surrealist representation. By the mid-50s, her work had radically changed. As Tanning explains, “Around 1955 my canvases literally splintered . . . I broke the mirror, you might say.” The Insomnias — the group takes its name from a painting of the same title that Tanning made in 1957 — are forays into the realm of conjured energies. They represent a forceful shift at a particular, postwar moment that continues to reverberate today.
Essays by Dr. Charles Stuckey and Richard Howard
Kent Gallery, New York, 2005.
80 pp. 14 color plates.