Recognizable in the corrosive oranges and reds of “Europe After the Rain II” is the unforgiving desert landscape of Sedona, Arizona, where Max Ernst lived as a refugee for years after fleeing Nazi-occupied France. The 1942 painting, a bombed-out widescreen of radioactive rubble currently on display as part of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War” exhibition, shows two mutated figures standing among a heap of coral-colored, crushed bones and gazing off into the horizon, frozen by the impossibility–and necessity–of imagining a future.
War is an insistent presence in the exhibit, which frames Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Andre Masson and Ernst as interpreters of a violent century, unable to forget what they saw. But it’s far from the only one. There’s also sadomasochism, cybernetic anxieties and at least one castration fantasy embedded in this slice of the surrealist canon, most of which flies under the radar of the BMA’s cataloging.