This article is a part of the 2024 Summer Travel Guide, a sponsored collection brought to you by our travel advertising partners. You can find more summer travel destinations and events here.

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth announces Surrealism and Us: Caribbean and African Diasporic Artists since 1940. Organized by Curator María Elena Ortiz, this presentation is on view at the Modern through July 28, 2024. The thematic exhibition is inspired by the history of Surrealism in the Caribbean with connections to notions of the Afrosurreal in the United States. With a global perspective, Surrealism and Us is the first intergenerational show dedicated to Caribbean and African diasporic art presented at the Modern.

“Expanding the conversation on Surrealism in American and international art, this exhibition enriches the canon by highlighting Black and Caribbean artists’ engagements with the movement. This is one of the first shows of Caribbean artists in the region, and I am excited to share it with our audiences,” commented exhibition curator, María Elena Ortiz.  

Inspired by the essay “1943: Surrealism and Us” by Suzanne Césaire, this exhibition presents over 50 works from the 1940s to the present day, in a wide range of media such as painting, sculpture, drawing, video, and installation. Centered on the intersection of Caribbean aesthetics, Afrosurrealism, and Afrofuturism, this exhibition explores how Caribbean and Black artists interpreted a modernist movement. Artworks, framed within a pre-existing history of Black resistance and creativity, illustrate how Caribbean and Black artists reinterpreted the European avant-garde for their own purposes.

Formulated in the early twentieth century, Surrealism was an avant-garde movement that embraced African art and culture to radical effect in both Europe and the African diaspora. In the 1940s on the island of Martinique, writers Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, along with the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, proposed a Caribbean Surrealism that challenged principles of order and reason and embraced African spiritualities. Caribbean artists such as Agustín Cárdenas produced art inspired by Surrealist notions, while Hector Hyppolite was regarded as a true Surrealist artist by André Breton. This exhibition showcases the international networks of creative exchange, highlighting the connections between Caribbean and American art.

Likewise, artists in the United States such as Benny Andrews and Ted Joans connected with Surrealist ideas. Andrews’s painting Many Sins, 1964, for example, depicts an imaginary world of Black life through an esoteric and dynamic composition. Ted Joans deployed the “exquisite corpse,” a Surrealist model of collective creativity, to produce The Seven Sons of Lautréamont (and His Dutiful Beautiful Daughter), 1970–79, with collaborators Agustín Cárdenas, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Hervé Télémaque, and Joyce Mansour; in 2001, David Hammons filmed Joans at work. For these artists, the “Afro-surreal” (a term coined by the poet Amiri Baraka in 1974) was attuned to the alienations of a segregated society, as well as the fragmentary beauty of a resistant Black life.

Surrealism and Us is divided into three themes—“To Dare,” “Invisibility,” and “Super/Reality”—that bring these innovations into the present. Anchored in the writings of Suzanne Césaire, “To Dare” explores the concept of the marvelous. Alongside Lam, it includes Damballah La Flambeau, c. 1946–48, by Hector Hyppolite, a Vodou priest who captured the attention of André Breton, and work by Firelei Báez. Contemporary artists who embrace Caribbean and Black aesthetics are also featured, including Sentinel, 2019, by Simone Leigh, and Inside the Labyrinth, 2023 by Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.

“Invisibility” draws on scholarly research on Afrosurrealism by D. Scott Miller and Robin D. G. Kelley that considers the absurdity of the Black experience under oppressive conditions. Inspired by Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man, Kerry James Marshall’s (Untitled) La Venus Negra, 1992 alludes to notions of invisibility and Afrodiasporic Caribbean religions, while There is a Meeting Here Tonight: The Apotheosis, 1993, by Stanley Greaves portrays an allegory of social oppression. This section includes work by Melvin Edwards, Kelly Sinnapah Mary, and Ja’Tovia Gary’s video An Ecstatic Experience, 2015.

“Super/Reality” emphasizes the role of African religion and spirituality as a form of transgression, presenting works addressing Vodou, Abakuá, and Santería. Textiles by Myrlande Constant portray supernatural motifs as modes of resistance. Alongside Cárdenas, whose 1989 sculpture Un Seul Fil invokes totem morphologies, this section includes Chrysalis at the Altar of Change, 2022, by Naudline Pierre, which pays homage to the female figure and Afrodiasporic spiritualities.

Opening in 2024, the centennial anniversary of the publication of André Breton’s first Surrealist manifesto, the exhibition rethinks the history of modernism through the lens of Black and diasporic thinking, and in light of contemporary dialogues on Blackness and Caribbean art.


Surrealism and Us is accompanied by an expansive catalogue featuring over 50 full color plates. Scholarly essays describe the creative and historical links between Afrosurrealist thinking, artistic practice, and Black life in the twentieth century, with contributions from María Elena Ortiz, Dr. Annette Joseph-Gabriel, Negarra A. Kudumu, and Ashley Stull Meyers. In addition, a chronology written by Lindsey Reynolds highlights the historical continuity of these interwoven histories and networks.


Allora & Calzadilla, Benny Andrews, Belkis Ayón, Firelei Báez, Romare Bearden, José Bedia, Rigaud Benoit, April Bey, Henri-Robert Brésil, Agustín Cárdenas, Nick Cave, Aimé Césaire, Suzanne Césaire, Myrlande Constant, Eldzier Cortor, Luis Maisonet Crespo, Kim Dacres, Emory Douglas, Préfète Duffaut, Melvin Edwards, Tomás Esson, Minnie Evans, Celestin Faustin, Rafael Ferrer, Paul Gardère, Ja’Tovia Gary, Dalton Gata, Jacques-Enguérrand Gourgue, Stanley Greaves, David Hammons, Hugh Hayden, Hector Hyppolite, Arthur Jafa, Elliot and Erick Jiménez, Wifredo Lam, Simone Leigh, Georges Liautaud, Hew Locke, Che Lovelace, Joyce Mansour, Kerry James Marshall, Roberto Matta, Ana Mendieta, Rene Ménil, Toni Morrison, Wangechi Mutu, Lorraine O’Grady, Zak Ové, Salnave Philippe-Auguste, André Pierre, Naudline Pierre, Bony Ramirez, Kenny Rivero, Betye Saar, Kelly Sinnapah Mary, Hervé Télémaque, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, Bob Thompson, Kara Walker, Alberta Whittle, Cossette Zeno, Frantz Zéphirin


María Elena Ortiz joined the Modern in 2022; her first exhibition as Curator, Jammie Holmes: Make the Revolution Irresistible, opened in August 2023. Previously, as Curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), she organized exhibitions including Allied with Power: African and African Diaspora Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, The Other Side of Now: Foresight in Caribbean Art, Teresita Fernández: Elemental, American Echo Chamber: José Carlos Martinat, william cordova: now’s the time, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: A Universe of Fragile Mirrors, Ulla von Brandenburg: It Has a Golden Sun and an Elderly Grey Moon, Firelei Báez: Bloodlines, and Carlos Motta: Histories for the Future, among others. At PAMM, Ortiz founded and spearheaded the Caribbean Cultural Institute (CCI)—a curatorial platform dedicated to Caribbean art.

For more information about the exhibition, visit