Convex and Concave. (CR Museum of Art photo)

A new exhibit at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art focuses on the fantastical dream world of surrealism with some very rare and familiar works now on display.

Museum curator Kate Kunau says surrealism encompassed writing, poetry, and theatre, not just the visual arts. She says the surrealist movement emerged in the wake of World War One and was a reaction to the monumental loss of life and the futility of war.

“Surreal comes from the French ‘sur’ or above, so they were looking for an ultimate super-reality,” Kunau says, “so they were very into dreams and the unconscious mind and searching for something beyond the reality of this world.” The exhibition is called, “Dreamscape: Surrealism from the Collection,” and it includes works dating back to the 1930s and running up through contemporary, modern artists who are still inspired by the genre.

“Salvador Dali, who is perhaps the best known surrealist artist today, created these really wild dreamscapes, famously with the soft clocks representing memory,” Kunau says. “Rene Magritte really famously did the painting of the man with the apple in front of his face. There’s just a lot of different artists who interpreted it in different ways.”

The exhibit also features several works from M.C. Escher, who created intricately detailed works like “The Staircases to Nowhere” which defy gravity and reality. “They’re very classical Escher with his impossible figures, based off of actual mathematical principles,” Kunau says. “M.C. Escher is one of those really interesting artists that didn’t really fit in a genre and so he gets put in a lot of different ones. He’s in op art or optical art, obviously, because he does a lot with perspective and optical illusion. I find his work very surreal.”

Several lectures on the exhibit and on surrealism are scheduled over the coming weeks. “Dreamscapes” is on display through December 31st.