Franklin Rosemont and Surrealism

Graces Disgraces (in pen and ink from November 6, 2001) and 8 by 10 inches

Franklin Rosemont was a great influence on me and my work.  My encounter with his work changed my life.  It was inspiring to know that there were people living Surrealism in the late Twentieth Century.

The whole “Chicago School” of Surrealism was a formative influence.  This consisted of Franklin and Penelope Rosemont and their circle.  Some, like Paul Garon, were in Chicago.  Others, like Joseph Jablonski, were elsewhere.

They also kept in touch with Surrealism around the world.  It was always toward working toward true change absolutely for the better, everywhere, in all the corners of the earth.   Part of this is to wake people up, to reveal and unleash certain dreams and mysteries.

Surrealism deepened my resolve to go against the grain, to be an outsider and generally not to “play the game.” 

In ways they also helped to inform and deepen my interests.  They turned me on to so many great books and artists.  They had a Surrealist version of  a  sort of merciless cultural criticism.  I’d often laugh out loud at their critiques of the Elmer Fudds of the “art world” and the “poetry scene.”

They also turn their clear-eyed criticism toward reality.  Truth is not cut and dried.  Things are not as they should be.  People are asleep even when awake and/or wearing designer blinders.  As I always say: Incorrigible Utopianists Amalgamated!

(My good friend, the late Jacques Karamanoukian, had a similar sort of revolutionary spirit suffused in black humor and wide-eyed realism.   He had a good knowledge of Surrealism and we discuss various artists, poets and manifestos.)

I knew Franklin Rosemont better from his writings than through my few meetings with him.  I never got there as often as I’d liked  due to the distance between Detroit and Chicago and the fact that I don’t drive automobiles. 

Also, I  rarely use the telephone.    I admit to some degree of shyness and “loner tendencies.”  Yet, due to a long and faithful postal correspondence, I’ve regarded Franklin and Penelope Rosemont as true comrades and old friends. 

We worked together on a few projects, primarily a Surrealist declaration defending Detroit artist Tyree Guyton.  They wrote it but I did some research and sent some photos.  He’d just had four of his wild “art houses” demolished by the city of Detroit.

I think that (pretty early on) I tried to find them.  I got to their house but no one seemed to be home.  I think it was on their mailbox I saw posted: Zorro and Tarzana Laughingthrush.

The graces and the disgraces will continue to wrestle, engage, dance in opposite directions and perhaps enter into conversation.

Again, all my condolences to Penelope and to Franklin’s friends, family and fellow Surrealists.

4 Responses to “Franklin Rosemont and Surrealism”

  1. Don Handy Says:

    My basic disagreement with Surrealism is that I don’t place any value on dreams. Be that as it may, there is much in this post that I can identify with, such as “Their critiques of the Elmer Fudds of the ‘art world’ and the ‘poetry scenes.'” Reminds me of Rimbaud, as well as my own anti-social self. “To go against the grain,” is to enable oneself to make exciting, disturbing, and/or life-altering discoveries, and must be a part of true art.

  2. Rick Lieder Says:

    Good to see you write about your motivations. I just quoted you on twitter.

  3. tony Says:

    Thanks for the words Maurice. I too have a great love of Franklin and Penelope. One of my disappointments is that I never got to thank Franklin in person for the opening he helped me to see. I found his book “What Is Surrealism?” to be one of the portals I had been looking for. It came at just the right time in my life. It “fucked my up, right”. And I found the book while I was exploring a small neighborhood thrift store I had never been in before and was closed next time I went by there. This was back in the ’80’s and I was aloafin’ on the job. The kicker, and I feel somewhat “ashamed” considering it’s influence of me, is that I only paid a quarter for it. That’s right, two bits for an opening I didn’t see before.


  4. allen20122013 Says:

    Excellent article.

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