The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

I made the book that bears this title in an attempt to cope with the extreme disparity between works of interest by Salvador Dali and the sheer size of his oeuvre, which must run into the hundreds of thousands of pieces, if one counts all the print runs (even excluding fakes). I paid a good deal of attention to his work when I was learning to paint, and even then I found it exhausting to contemplate the muchness of it. Partly this is due to the way he packs enough into any single painting to sustain another painter through half a dozen works—compare him in this respect with his master Yves Tanguy, for instance.

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

This piece started out as a mass-produced coffee table book of the kind people pick up on remainder tables for Christmas presents. I chose it because it wasn’t too large to imagine reinventing, it was hardback (for sturdiness), and it was in German, which meant that I wouldn’t be distracted by the text.  Through overpainting, overprinting, collage, and other alterations, I reconfigured most of the images.

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

The process was largely automatic in direct homage to Surrealism, and I carried it out over a period of months, something like a painter’s daybook. If in the end the book shows less of Dali, it is perhaps not actually less Daliesque, given that a good deal was added for all that was taken away. (The idea that there might be a “reasonable size” to any artist’s oeuvre was a ludicrous idea on its face, but like many such ideas it provided the starting point for a certain kind of play.) I see the whole as a silent manifesto for appropriation, and the individual pages as a kind of involuntary collaboration, neither wholly Dali’s nor wholly mine. For this reason I consider the book a Museum of Forgery project (a few more images can be found here on the museum’s website).

The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size, ca. 1993

page spread from "The Oeuvre of Salvador Dali Reduced to a Reasonable Size", ca. 1993

When the book was finished, I had bookbinder Zahre Partovi (whom I’ve mentioned in another post) rebind it in black cloth and stamp the title on the cover in silver ink, from a relief plate that I photo-etched.

The book has been included in several shows but I haven’t been able to bear to part with it. So far.