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Nu, Cadavre Exquius

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Nu, Cadavre Exquis is a Surrealist drawing dated 1926-1927. The piece is the result of the close collaboration between four artists: Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise and Man Ray. In this collaboration (which is a Surrealist experiment) each artist drew a portion of the figure starting from the top without having knowledge of what their previous colleague

had done. The work depicts the figure of a nude woman standing in an almost isolated backround except for a few sparse stones and shading near the legs, which suggests the presence of the ground. The heavy stock paper on which the figure is drawn has been creased horizontally into four equal parts, thus forming four compartments of equal dimensions and dividing the figure as well into four parts. Each of these compartments was drawn by a different artist, thus giving the figure a disjointed aspect. The first compartment was done by Tanguy, the second by Miró, the third by Morise and the last by Man Ray. The artists did not use a single medium throughout to create the figure; in one compartment it is crayon and pencil, in another it is pen and ink, and in the others it is just pencil or ink alone.

The drawing exhibits certain notifs which are characteristic of the Surrealist movement as interpreted through the artists who collaborated in its creation.

The first motif that stands out to the viewer as being eminently

Surrealist is the combiantion of the word and image which occupies the second compartment. This compartment has been attributed to Miró, for it is his penmanship along the edges of the torso which reads: "Rouge, Jaune, Bleu, Bleu, (Comme c'est beau!), Mediterranée, d'ailleurs je m'en fou, Atlantique." In addition, the shape of the torso is clearly Surrealist as well. The anatomy is deformed and feats which would be impossible to carry out in reality are carried out at ease in the picture: an arm becomes a bow and arrow; the other arm has the appearance of a fish or a marine beast and it holds an arrow. The breasts, which are part of what makes femaleness clearly identifiable are emphasized given prominence as they are two circles which immediately draw the viewer's eye in.

In the first compartment, done by the french artist Yves Tanguy, the face of the woman (the center of all social interaction in the realm of reality) is drawn in pencil. Tanguy drew a very personal rendition of a female face in a highly naturalistic manner. Emphasis was placed on the eyes, which lie at opposite ends on the face, and the ears, which perk up like those of a hare. Tanguy was careful to render the imaginary shape of his female head with utmost precision through the use of shading and hatching. In addition the entire form of the head has a sinuosity which closely resembles a dried fruit or the texture of the skin of an aged person. The effect can be found in in many of his works, such as Infinite Divisibility, (1942. Oil on Canvas, 101.5x89 cm. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.) and it is precisely this effect which makes the attribution to Tanguy possible. The final result is an astonishingly realistic portrayal of an imaginary vision.

Max Morise's segment, which is the third from the top is, perhaps, the most unremarkable of the four. Morise drew the remaining portion of the torso and the upper thighs. He chose not to place any emphasis on the female genitalia per se, but rather to suggest their presence by including an arrow which pierces the woman's right buttock. The inclusion of this arrow may also lead one to believe that Morise was able to catch a glance or to have had some knowledge of what Miró, the participant before him, had already done. In addition, to the left of the thighs, Morise also included the numbers 1,2,3,4 and 5 as descending in scale physically as they increased numerically. This inclusion remains somewhat cryptic, except for the fact that it can be seen as a reaction to Miró's poetry in the previous block.

Finally, the last segment was rendered by the American artist Man Ray. Ray placed what look like snow shoes on the woman's feet and in addition he drew several stones receding into space which helps to discern the figure as belonging to a particular setting or realm. Incidentally this realm is that of the unconscious mind, which is why the setting is so sparse and suggestive of infinity through its emptiness. This last segment can be attributed to Man Ray because of his use of shading. The shading Ray uses to suggest the figure's presence in a setting is a shading which has a parallel with the work of a photographer, who is concerned with capturing effects of this nature.

At first, it seems puzzling to the viewer to perceive

such a mixture of individual styles and approaches to the rendering of a single female form as having any relevance whatsoever to reality. It seems pointless for artists to collaborate in the making a work of art when, in theory, the perception of what the entire work looks like in its different stages remains a mystery for each artist. The implications of this would be that the final product of their efforts would make absolutely no sense because no exchange of ideas took place between the artists during the creation of the object.

But to make sense was not the point for any of these artists. As Yves Duplessis has noted, "The point is simply to achieve emptiness in order to let the unconscoius express itself spontaneously." What lies behind the conception of Nu, Cadavre Exquisis a willingness to experiment and stretch the boundaries of the intellect in order to have access to the realm of the unconscious. As a matter of fact, cadavre exquis or 'exquisite corpse' was the name given to a specific type of experiment the Surrealists engaged in. In appearance the experiment closely resembled the game known as 'pass-it-on,' in which a piece of paper is folded equally into as many portions as there are participants in the game. The piece of paper is then passed around and each participant adds a portion to the whole (which may be a string of words or a drawing of a subject the group has ageed upon previously). In both instances ('the exquisite corpse' and 'pass-it-on') the end result defies all reality.

The game encourages the participant "to release himself from the world of dismal reality, so that he can penetrate the world of the disjointed and the strange." Moreover those who surrender to the game can disentangle themselves from their personalities and thus let the true movements of the unconscious come into the fore. Collecting the true movements of the unconscious

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