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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Dec 3 1997
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"Voices of the Visionaries"
When Andre Breton first saw the paintings of Kay Sage in 1938, he assumed the artist was a man. Why? Because they were "too strong" to be done by a woman. Leonor Fini "irritated" Breton when they met, "because I wasn't obedient." Like most radical movements, surrealism also had a touch of the reactionary; too often its practitioners relegated women to the role of muse or patron and influenced critics and a naive public to do the same. Media artist and curator Aline Mare's "Voices of the Visionaries," a film-and-lecture show, is a worthy attempt to rescue Sage and Fini (along with the better-known French writer Colette) from a duplicitous history. What's most intriguing about Sage (1898-1963) and Fini (1908-1995) is that both were far too individualized to accept any labeling or be swallowed up in any movement. While Sage remained closest to surrealism by marrying Yves Tanguy and giving financial support to him and others, she did not compromise her work; her paintings of a world of airless spaces and ominous architectural forms comprise one of the most bracingly bleak oeuvres in art history. Fini's work, as seen in Chris Vermorcken's feature-length documentary, has elements of alienation, but they're balanced by a sense of theatricality and a playful eroticism that also informed her life. Her revenge on what she called "male opacity" takes the form of a dazzling matriarchal universe in which men barely exist and stylized women act out mysterious dramas in ethereal dreamscapes.

-- Gary Morris

"Voices of the Visionaries," presented by the S.F. Cinematheque, plays at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street). Tickets are $7; call 558-8129 for more information.

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Gary Morris

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