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SOMNIUM / Emotional Painting at Las Pozas, Xilitla, México

Presented at the Edward James Museo. This groundbreaking exhibition opening at Edward James Museo reveals the perspective and scope of 3 artists working together in Las POZAS, the most magical space of the radical surrealist movement. The project intends to present a point of view from their own understanding of their personal styles influenced by Surrealism. Getting inspired by las Pozas and Susan Fang’s collection is bound to create a magical collaboration. The Edward James Museo will show how this dynamic trio collaborated within one space to dream endlessly.

Las Pozas is near the village of Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, a seven-hour drive up north from Mexico City. In the early 1940s, James went to Los Angeles, California, and then decided he "wanted a Garden of Eden set up . . . and I saw that Mexico was far more romantic" and had "far more room than there is in crowded Southern California". With Plutarco Gastélum as a guide, they came to know Xilitla in November 1945. Eventually, Plutarco got married and had four children. James was "Uncle Edward" to the children and frequently stayed with them in a house Plutarco had built, a mock-Gothic cement castle, now a hotel – La Posada El Castillo. Between 1949 and 1984, James built scores of surreal concrete structures which carry the names The House on Three Floors Which Will Have Five or Four or Six, The House with a Roof like a Whale, and The Staircase to Heaven. There were also plantings and beds brimming with tropical plants, including orchids — there were, apparently, 29,000 at Las Pozas at one time — and a variety of small homes, niches, and pens that held exotic birds and wild animals from the world over—James owned many exotic animals and once even took his pet boa constrictors to the Hotel Francis in Mexico City. Massive sculptures rising up to four stories tall punctuate the site. The many trails throughout the garden site are composed of steps, ramps, bridges and narrow, winding walkways that traverse the valley walls. Edward James had a passion for the surrealist style and he believed he was born a surrealist. He created Las Pozas as his expression of surrealism. He often emphasized how Mexico is “naturally surrealistic” and how he wanted the structures he was designed to form part of that. He went to great lengths to achieve his desired surrealistic style in creating his sculptures and at one point he also conducted electricity from the nearby town of Xilitla to light up the forest. A revolutionary idea sparked in Paris around 1924, Surrealism prioritized the unconscious and dreams over the familiar and everyday state of things. The exhibition also considers the locations around the garden with the Susan Fang collections and the local Teenek to show how this garden makes the artists converge and exchange ideas of a new perspective in Surrealism while trying to showcase the beauty of the local culture. Yvan’s painting “Somnium” is inspired by surrealist details of the garden and the Susan Fang collection. Las Pozas ("the Pools") is a surrealistic group of structures created by Edward James, standing at more than 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level in a subtropical rainforest in the Sierra Gorda mountains of Mexico. It includes more than 80 acres (32 ha) of natural waterfalls and pools interlaced with towering surrealist sculptures in concrete.

The exhibition is made possible with the help of Mario Cesar Ramirez, one of the founders of the Edward James Museo. the museum holds a collection of items related to Edward James, highlighting his contribution both as a patron of the arts and as an artist in his own right. His poems and other writings, along with his collaborations with artists such as Salvador Dalí and Leonora Carrington, give visitors a wider context of his output. Edward James is the creator of one of a handful of places worldwide that can claim to be representative of surrealist architecture, and the only one where nature and art come together in a symbiotic way that defies traditional definitions. The museum exhibits a collection of the intricate molds in the making of the concrete structures around the garden, bearing witness to an extraordinary degree of inventiveness and skill. Finally, visitors can enjoy a unique multimedia experience entitled “Seclusia”, a tour through Edward James' mind.

Production/ Rodrigo Cervantes
Production assistant / Sofía Acevedo
Photography / Lukasz Wierzbowski
Styling/ Susan Fang, Yvan Deng

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