1. Surrealism on the Move: NY 1937-53

Section 1: Househunting

This section considers transformations in Loy’s relationship to Dada and Surrealism when she moved to New York City for the second time. This chapter does not approach Loy’s late work as an afterthought to or falling off from an earlier European “avant-garde” moment but as an active working through of ideas and techniques she had absorbed from Dada and Surrealism, which she would continue to critique and transform during her years in New York. Her own struggles with aging and poverty coupled with her experience living near the Bowery would inflect her poetry and art of this time with ethical vigor and spiritual reflection.

Considering Loy’s relationship to Dada and Surrealism in the U.S. (which lacked an organized Surrealist movement) and her explicit engagement with anonymity and marginality
in her late work clarifies the usefulness of the concept of the “en dehors garde.” In addition to textual analysis, this chapter will include:

  • A timeline of Loy’s years in New York, including photos of her residences.
  • A discussion of Surrealism in New York , 1930s-early 1960s, including little magazines, galleries, and artists/poets involved in the reception, absorption, and transformation of Surrealism. This section will establish the backdrop for the importance/relevance of Loy’s work in New York during this era.
  • A social network that visualizes Loy’s relationship to key figures involved in the reception and creation of Surrealist work in NY (supply photos, bios, and a summary of the connections to Loy, as in the Paris network above). Scholarship depicts Loy as a recluse who retreated from the art world when she moved to NY. Although Loy was marginal to the museum-centered NY art world in the 1940s and 50s, she had important relationships/contact with Joseph Cornell, Clarence John Laughlin, Julien Levy, Berenice Abbott, Frances Steloff, Charles Henri Ford, James Laughlin, Kenneth Rexroth, Marcel Duchamp, Peggy Guggenheim, and Djuna Barnes. Moreover, many of the European Surrealists were in exile in NY during WW2; they exhibited their work at the Julien Levy and Peggy Guggenheim Galleries, and participated in events and little magazines (View and VVV) in which Loy was also involved. This social network will make visible Loy’s centrality to the network of artists interested in Surrealism in New York.


Loy, Househunting, ca 1950.

Section 2: Surrealism on the Bowery

  • A map and history of the Bowery, including the importance of theaters and dime museums, with photos. Alongside or on top of this map, include an annotated version of the poem “Hot Cross Bum,” showing key Bowery locales.
  • A display of Loy’s artworks created while she lived on the Bowery and which she exhibited in 1959 at the Bodley Gallery (curated by Duchamp and Julien Levy).
  • An analysis of some of Loy’s 1940s/early 50s Bowery poems and collages, as a critical response to and transformation of both Dada and Surrealism: “On Third Avenue,” “Hot Cross Bum,” “Mass Production on 14th Street,” “Property of Pigeons,” “Ephemerid,” “Chiffon Velours.”
  • A comparison of Loy’s and Joseph Cornell’s surrealist-inspired work from the 1940s/50s including a discussion (and possible inclusion) of Loy’s essay about Cornell, “Phenomenon in American Art,” with some attention to how Christian Science and the American context mediated both artists’ relation to Surrealism.
Joseph Cornell, Box with Man Ray Photo of Mina Loy, ca. early 1930s