Welcome To The Jungle

The Jungle-Wifredo Lam 1943
The masterpiece of the exceptional Surrealist Wifredo Lam, The Jungle from 1943, presents in its densely populated canvas a nightmarish, claustrophobic  vision of riotous growth and rapid decay. Blending the human, animal and vegetation within his totemic masked figures with their proliferation of limbs and orbed protuberances, The Jungle exudes a sinister atmosphere of ritualised aggression and menace.

Lam was born in Cuba of mixed Chinese and African descent. His godmother was a famed Santeria practitioner and both his Afro-Cuban  heritage and the orisha (the spirit deities of Santeria, the Cuban equivalent of Vodou) would play an integral part in his mature work. His association with Andre Breton would led to Lam illustrating Breton’s collection of poems, Fata Morgana and Lam was one of the artists and intellectuals that would contribute to the Surrealists re-design of the card deck (see Le Jeu Du Marseille-A Surrealist Pack of Cards) while holed up in a Marseilles mansion while awaiting to escape Europe after the Nazi invasion of France. Lam would also accompany Breton and his wife Elise on his visit to Haiti (see Desire in a Different Climate).

23 thoughts on “Welcome To The Jungle

    1. What is and isn’t Surrealism is a tricky subject. Lam definitely had Cubist influences, however he self identified as a Surrealist, was friends and worked with the pope of surrealism Andre Breton. There is a good deal of that particularly South American genre Magic realism in lam’s work but I would contend that this in itself was a direct offshoot of surrealism.

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      1. Picasso of the cubism period was definitely his major artistic influence. My contention which is proving rather contentious is that he sought out and embraced surrealism as a doctrine for a period of his artistic career. Surrealism wasn’t a style, if you were surrealist you produced surrealist art. It could be figurative, abstract, semi-abstract, automatism, collage, photo-montage. But obviously an individual artist could be surrealist in one point in their career and something else either before or after. But your point is taken that it is has extensive cubist influences.

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      2. No not at all, avant garde art and politics between the wars were an absolute mine field with the various competing schools.
        My knowledge is by no means extensive or exhaustive and the evidence of your eyes is all anyone can go on.

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    1. There are very good reasons to consider him a surrealist, he was affiliated with the group for a long period during the late 30’s to mid 40’s, but I certainly have no desire to fall out over the matter. Glad you enjoyed thank you Miss Cranes.


      1. Breton was an opportunist, he collected artists as he did artwork. I am NOT a fan of Breton at all, or his tiresome green outfits. Many of Breton’s relationships with artists were symbiotic. I believe Lam identified himself more as a Cubist/Modernist than a Surrealist, perhaps his greatest influence was Picasso, if you re-visit the illustrations for “Fata Morgana”, it’s quite evident. I don’t really care who Lam was affiliated with during the late 30’s to mid 40’s, or what Wikipedia happens to say. Frida Kahlo is perfect example of this bullshit by Breton, upon meeting her, Breton told her she was a Surrealist, Diego Rivera argued that Frida was a Realist. Agreed, there is no need for a fall out.

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      2. Ouch, I feel quite taken to task for my innocent suggestion that Lam was a Surrealist for a while and this really could led to a fall out (only joking). Breton certainly was dictatorial and did collect artists. Lam greatest influence is without a doubt Picasso I would never argue otherwise but I would say that his engagement with surrealism did alter his artistic course. Breton did have an eye for talent. I would also argue that magic realism had its roots in surrealism. Also that the Latin America and the Caribbean embraced surrealism because of its strong anti-colonialism and the validity it accorded non-western cultures no matter how exoticising it’s tendencies may have been, it was still a sincere rebellion. If you look at my post Re-draw the map, re-write history and re-invent the world you will find a clearer argument which also refers to Frida.


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