The Fantastic


A general category for artworks depicting scenes, figures, or objects that appear to be imaginary, illusory, irrational, or bizarre. The earliest artist to explore the fantastic might have been Hieronymus Bosch, who created allegorical paintings—like The Garden of Earthly Delights—of mythical creatures and humans in uncanny, imaginary landscapes. Arguably the best known modern movement associated with the fantastic is Surrealism, whose followers like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte embraced chance, dreams, and the irrational in their quest to express the human subconscious. Dada also embraced the fantastic in a more abstract manner, as exemplified by Man Ray in his photographs and experimental films. Contemporary artists push the subject matter to even greater extremes, whether in Kenny Scharf's swirling dreamscapes of donuts, fish, and teddy bears, or the imaginary intergalactic explorations of Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder explosions.

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