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Published: 02 March 2019

By Andy Ross

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Dorothea Tanning at Tate Modern

An exhibition dedicated to Surrealist artist, Dorothea Tanning, opened at Tate Modern in London this week.

Dorothea Tanning was an American artist, born in Illinois and studying in Chicago. She had a long career - more than seven decades - moving from Illinois to New York where she met and married Max Ernst. The couple moved eventually to France and Dorothea returned to the USA after Max's death. 

For a five year period in the late 1960's into the 1970's, soft sculpture became a focus for the artist's imagination. Using materials such as wool, wood, metal, fake fur and tweed, these sculptures ultimately led to the creation of what is possibly her most famous work: Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202 (Poppy Hotel, Room 202).  The artist believed that this piece was related to a childhood song...

In room two hundred and two 

The walls keep talkin' to you

 I'll never tell you what they said

So turn out the light and come to bed.

which was a 1920's lyric about a gangster's wife who committed suicide in a local hotel. In the piece, contorted figures burst out of the wallpaper and furniture, making this confined space uncomfortable and claustrophobic. It may be that this piece has to do with a constricted, orderly early life of the artist with a stifling atmosphere at home? 

You can see the exhibition at Tate Modern until the 9th June.