Sarah's Chess Journal

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         The History and The Culture of Chess

The Imagery of Chess -Surrealism and Chess
July 2007

Imagery of Chess

Julien Levy, along with Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, put on a show at the Levy Gallery called Imagery of Chess.
The show ran from December 12, 1944 through January 31, 1945. Duchamp was undoubtedly the impetus behind the show which included 32 listed contributors (actually, a few more), one for each man on a chess board.

It was supposedly an intimate affair by invitation only and, although it took place during the war almost no war-related themes intruded on this celebration of Chess. It began with a lavish reception, provided entirely by Kay Sage:

in addition to maintaining periodic contact with those who remained in the city, Sage also continued to contribute financially to projects promoting the modern artistic trends she cherished, such as the "Artists in Exile" show at Matisse's gallery on 3-8 March 1942. Privately, she paid the caterer's fee for the lavish opening reception of Levy's "Imagery of Chess" exhibit, which hung during the 1943-44 [sic] Christmas-New Year season. Publicly, she contributed a painting,
Near the Five Corners
(1943), to the Levy show.
-A House of Her Own: Kay Sage, Solitary Surrealist By Judith D. Suther

Midway through the show, January 6, 1945, George Koltanowski gave a blindfold demonstration
A blindfold exhibition fit nicely into Duchamp's conception that the chess board and pieces were a necessary, yet imperfect interface between the mind and the game. His desire to re-design the board and pieces was centered on the idea that the physical elements of chess should interfere as little as possible with the mental elements. A better design would suggest the correct movement by its visual aspects. Blindfold players don't use such a physical interface - a fact not at all lost on Duchamp.

On the brochure, designed by Duchamp, one of the premises for the show was put forth:

Cannot a new set be designed, that is, without too radical a departure from the traditional figures, at once more harmonious and more agreeable to the touch and to the sight, and above all, more adequate to the role the figure has to play in the struggle?


Those 32 contributors, as listed in the brochure, were:

Click on the name to view the piece along with much relevant information
(Pieces by those in dark blue are unknown, but still click for information!)

     1. Eugene Berman  2. Peter Blume   3. André  Breton   4.  John Cage
     5. Alexander Calder   6. Mary Callery   7. Nicolas Calas   8. Julio De Diego
     9. Marcel Duchamp   10. Max Ernst   11. Richard Filipowski   12. Arshile Gorky
    13. David Hare   14. Jean Hélion   15.  Antonin Heythum   16. Carol Janeway
    17.  Leon Kelly   18. Frederick Kiesler  19. Roberto Matta   20. Man Ray
    21. Robert Motherwell   22. Isamo Noguchi    23. Vittorio Rieti   24. Kay Sage
    25. Xanti Schawinsky   26. Kurt Seligmann   27. Harold Sterner   28. Muriel Streeter
    29. Yves Tanguy   30. Dorothea Tanning   31. Ossip Zadkine   32. Dr. Gregory Zilboorg

Not listed, but also contributing were:  33. Xenia Cage, 34. Steffi Kiesler and  35. Julian Levy
(Levy didn't receive an invitation; Xenia Cage and Steffi Kiesler were invited jointly with there husbands.)

Some additional information on VVV


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