...In France, Kahlo befriended Duchamp, Mirs, Tanguy, Dora Maar, Picasso, and others, and established the beginnings of a long-term friendship with Austrian Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen. Learning that he, his painter-poet wife Alice Rahon, and their companion Swiss photographer Eva Sulzer, were preparing for a long trip through North America, she invited them to visit her in Mexico. Paalen, admired by Breton as the last of the German Romantics, operated from the belief in the possible, as opposed to what could not be: he sought to stay attuned to messages from the art of ancient cultures and Native American Art, which he displaced onto his artistic productions. After seeing his exhibition in 1936 at the Galerie Pierre in Paris, Breton invited him to join the Surrealist movement. Paalen became a unique contributor. He wrote theory, made objects, painted, and invented the misty fumage in 1937, which broke ground in the evolution of automatism.
Wolfgang Paalen arrived in Mexico on September 7, 1939 with the intention of organizing the Exposición Internacional de Surrealismo at the Galería de Arte Mexicano. Inés Amor, its director had met Breton the previous year so the groundwork had been done. In her memoirs, Amor recalled, "in reality Paalen came to Mexico fundamentally to explore the possibilities of an exhibition. From the start I was impressed with the idea; then and there it began between us a heartfelt friendship that lasted until his death."
In April 1940, with one foot outside Surrealism, Paalen exhibited at Julien Levy's New York gallery. The exhibition--his last Surrealist show--brought together works from 1937-1940. A small fumage canvas, Quelque Part en moi (1940), combining automatic and biomorphic imagery, wrote Paalen scholar Amy Winter, "precedes in image and meaning the so-called 'biologic' part of Abstract Expressionism (between 1940 -1946)." Paalen's reputation had preceded him, too. His work had been reproduced in Cahiers d'Art, Minotaure, The London Bulletin, and Herbert Read's Surrealism (1936), closely read in the New York art world of the thirties. His work had been seen in the Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism show organized by Alfred Barr in 1936, and hung next to Braque, Picasso at A. E. Gallatin's Museum of Living Art in 1939. Paalen's pivotal influence in the budding New York School of painting cannot be overemphasized. Paalen's regular contact with New York artists, through his magazine Dyn, and the influence of the War, drew many of them to Mexico. Some visited, others stayed long perios of time, even years, or the rest of their lives, as did Paalen, who shot himself there. Mexico embraced Surrealism. It had opened eyes that would not be closed again, even among many that worked within the traditional Mexican school of painting. It was hard to reject the message of freedom.
Excerpted from Salomon Grimberg's Mexico Reflected on Andri Breton's Mirror reproduced in the exhibition catalogue The Surrealists in Exile and the Beginnings of the New York Art School.