The Dali Drama

Sometimes Dali worked a small but reasonably faithful reproduction of the Millet into a larger surrealist canvas, as in Gala and the Angelus of Millet Immediately Preceding the Arrival of the Conic Anamorphosis, in which it appears as a sort of inset. In other works he transformed the peasants into architecture, as in Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus.

In still others the image fueled inexplicably feverish sexual fantasies. Dali confessed that he imagined the man to be concealing a state of sexual arousal with the hat held in front of him and the woman to be a voracious predator of the praying mantis variety, waiting to devour her mate. He even went so far as to portray the couple engaged in doggy-style intercourse (or perhaps sodomy, with which Dali was obsessed) over their wheelbarrow in a 1965 canvas that bears this astonishing title: Gala Contemplating Dali in a State of Levitation Above His "Pop, Op, Yes, Yes, Pompier" Work of Art in Which We Can See the Two Anxious Characters From Millet's Angelus in Atavistic Hibernation in Front of a Sky Which Can Suddenly Transform Itself Into a Gigantic Maltese Cross in the Very Center of Perpignan Station, on Which the Whole Universe Is Converging.

The simple Angelus drawing here doesn't go to such drastic extremes. But its characters are clearly in flux, with the wheelbarrow that will become a vehicle of sexuality spiraling out of the man's head and a trademark Dali crutch supporting the woman's stumpy appendage. Even in this restrained version, the richness that drew Dali to the image is evident. We can see how it could become such a versatile catalyst for his creativity.

Which brings us to the problem with this particular Dali exhibition: Most of the images are of interest primarily because they allude to other, better works by Dali, usually the oil paintings. They make sense only in the much larger context of a long, productive, highly varied career that's only hinted at here. The show is like an appetizer for an entree that never arrives.

"Salvador Dali: Exhibition and Sale" is on display through April 18 at the New River Gallery, 1016 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-524-2100.

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