William Baziotes. The Drugged Balloonist. 1943. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1951.266. © artist or artist’s estate
Having moved from Pennsylvania to New York in 1933, William Baziotes became acquainted with many young artists who had settled in the city. In 1943, he and his friends Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock were invited by collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim to contribute work to an exhibition of collages that she was planning for her avant-garde Art of This Century gallery. Baziotes, being the most literary of the group, had a deep understanding of Surrealism, and responded with complex images, such as “The Drugged Balloonist.” For him the balloonist symbolized a person who makes a mystical surrender to the will of nature. Baziotes blended images of insects with cut-outs of scientific and astral forms and combined them all with freely applied swirls of ink and wash.
Saidie May was well aware of the exiled European Surrealists’ influence on the next generation of American artists. She purchased this collage by Baziotes, as well as one by Robert Motherwell, from the show at the Art of This Century Gallery in 1942.
By Jan Ryan
Each day with no buyer, after optimism based on the serendipity that scored the Renoir, created a little more doubt as to how to escape from a Baziotes cocoon. If they could only sell the Renoir they could move to New York or putter in a propeller basket to the Caribbean. They read the Real Estate section, picking out an apartment that sold before they had the money to buy it, and the travel section, selecting their tropical island. Semi-consciously they floated, descending, through clouds.
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