Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226823720 Published November 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226029313 Published November 2013

Prehistoric Future

Max Ernst and the Return of Painting between the Wars

Ralph Ubl

Ralph Ubl

Translated by Elizabeth Tucker
260 pages | 4 color plates, 60 halftones | 7 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226823720 Published November 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226029313 Published November 2013
One of the most admired artists of the twentieth century, Max Ernst was a proponent of Dada and founder of surrealism, known for his strange, evocative paintings and drawings. In Prehistoric Future, Ralph Ubl approaches Ernst like no one else has, using theories of the unconscious—surrealist automatism, Freudian psychoanalysis, the concept of history as trauma—to examine how Ernst’s construction of collage departs from other modern artists.
Ubl shows that while Picasso, Braque, and Man Ray used scissors and glue to create collages, Ernst employed techniques he himself had forged—rubbing and scraping to bring images forth onto a sheet of paper or canvas to simulate how a screen image or memory comes into the mind’s view. In addition, Ernst scoured the past for obsolete scientific illustrations and odd advertisements to illustrate the rapidity with which time passes and to simulate the apprehension generated when rapid flows of knowledge turn living culture into artifact. Ultimately, Ubl reveals, Ernst was interested in the construction and phenomenology of both collective and individual modern history and memory. Shedding new light on Ernst’s working methods and the reasons that his pieces continue to imprint themselves in viewers’ memories, Prehistoric Future is an innovative work of critical writing on a key figure of surrealism.
Josef Helfenstein, Director, Menil Collection
 “Ubl’s book presents a fresh approach and a very thoughtful analysis of the early and most innovative work of this complex artist. Ubl’s rigorous study of Ernst’s unorthodox, ‘anti-metaphysical’ image-production is particularly welcome as his work still deserves better understanding and broader exposure in America.”
Charles W. Haxthausen, Williams College
"Prehistoric Future is an ambitious and mature scholarly achievement. No one has ever before plumbed this issue of the non-synchronous character of Ernst’s images with such depth, and certainly not with the rigor or probing visual and analytical acuity that Ralph Ubl brings to the task. Rich, illuminating, and brilliant, this book will not only contribute substantially to the discourse on Max Ernst and surrealism, but it is an inspiring and timely demonstration of the insights that can be gained by a probing, tireless, and theoretically informed eye.”
Michael Fried, Johns Hopkins University
 “Ralph Ubl’s brilliant book on Max Ernst in relation to Dada, surrealism, and—above all—what he calls the return of painting is a revelation. Rigorously historical, it offers a highly original and, to my mind, wholly persuasive series of readings both of individual works and of the larger issues at stake during the post–World War I decades. All scholars dealing with this fascinating material from here on out will have to take their bearings from Ubl’s ambitious study.”
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