Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy.
essays by Stephen Robeson Miller and Jonathan Stuhlman
Katonah Museum of Art and The Mint Museum, 2011
Rich illustrations of works by the Surrealist couple Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy, often placed side by side for comparison, offer a unique opportunity to examine intersections of their lives and art and to explore the ways in which each was inspired by the other. This is the focus of both authors in their respective essays: Stephen Robeson Miller's "The Intersection of Art and Fate," and Jonathan Stuhlman's "Double Solitaire." Elaborating on biographical and formal connections of their artistic exchange, the authors make a convincing case for the influence of the lesser-known Sage on the work of her far more famous husband, which seems to be a primary purpose of this project.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy is the catalogue for an exhibition of the same name that was shown at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York, and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Essayist Miller is an independent scholar whose primary research and publication focus has been on Sage, and Stuhlman, a curator at the Mint Museum, wrote his master's thesis on Sage's influence on Tanguy. (1)
The image they present is of a rather hermetic world of two artists making work in adjacent studios in a rural Connecticut farmhouse, their isolation mitigated by weekend visits with their many well-known Surrealist friends that are documented photographically and anecdotally. The couple's social connections and their participation in Surrealist exhibitions are discussed at some length, and there is fascinating information about Sage's war-time role in funding Surrealist artists in exile. Their shared interest in the Surrealist work of Giorgio di Chirico is also explored. But there is little substantive examination of the philosophical, political, or psycho-dynamic aspects of Surrealism that is at the core of each artist's work.
Tanguy and Sage shared an obsession with specificities of location and place stripped of human habitation. His are often light-filled, richly colored, and playful compositions, while hers are frequently dark, broken, and menacing. They are compared in these terms, as are the similarities and differences in their individual vocabulary of forms. There is extensive description but little exploration of the broader relationship of psychic to physical space, the link between the unconscious and the palpable world that enlivens the work of each. For example, the juxtaposition of Sage's Unusual Thursday (1951; Fig. 1) with Tanguy's The Mirage of Time (1954) is discussed simply in terms of geometrical form. The intense embrace of the oneiric, visionary, and psycho-sexual energy so clearly manifest in each artist's imagery calls out for deeper examination.
This catalogue, designed in service to the exhibition, whets the appetite for a much more fully developed analysis of their work in general and of Sage's in particular. The archive of research material on Sage, gathered over forty years, that Miller has deposited with the Archives of American Art, offers a rich mine of material for such further work. The new information that has been unearthed and the great wealth of images, including 46 color plates (it is a special pleasure to see so much of Sage's intriguing work here), should serve as valuable starting points for such deeper study and should help to reinforce the position of greater importance and wider visibility that Sage's work so clearly merits.
Janet A. Kaplan is Professor of Art History and Director of the BFA in Curatorial Studies at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, and the former Executive Editor of Art Journal. Her seminal book Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys is in its fourth U.S. edition.
(1.) See also Stephen Robeson Miller, Kay Sage: The Biographical Chronology and Four Surrealist One-Act Plays (New York: Gallery of Surrealism, 2011); and Jonathan Stuhlman, "Kay Sage's Influences on Yves Tanguy's art of the 1940's," (MFA thesis, Art Institute of Chicago, 1998).