Leonora Carrington: The Story of the Last Egg opens May 23 in New York, marking Gallery Wendi Norris’ third solo show for the artist. The exhibition takes its name from Opus Siniestrus: The Story of the Last Egg, a play Leonora Carrington wrote in 1970. The play imagines an apocalypse, driven by the hunger for profit, that has killed all women except one, a “colossally fat old lady of 80, the ex-madam of a brothel,” who comes to possess the last hope: an egg. Throughout the twenty-plus works in this exhibition, the egg appears as a symbol of fertility and the universe—which to Carrington were one and the same.
The largest work on view is Untitled which measures 58.7 by 34.6 inches. Pictured above, it is an early vision of the tale Opus Siniestrus. Carrington had been inspired by mythology and folklore since childhood and the play unfolds like a contemporary fairy tale, inbedded with the knotted morality and wry absurdity of modern life. Untitled provides an early depiction of her developing idea, and in this version Adam and Eve stand in the middle of a cauldron during a mysterious ritual. By the time she painted Sinister Work (below) in 1974, she had replaced Adam and Eve with Hitler, Hopalong Cassidy, Richard Nixon, and Superman. The cauldron was a recurrent motif throughout her work, representing the power of archetypically feminine— and supposedly mundane— act of cooking, while drawing allusions to the history of witchcraft.
Adding to the authenticity of Carrington’s original vision, this exhibition presents six masks she made for Opus Siniestrus, several of which are worn by the characters inhabiting Sinister Work. Carrington was fascinated with the mask as a symbol for the shields people must adopt to hide and protect their authentic selves from the social pressures of conformity and obedience. The masks she made for Opus Siniestrus share visual elements with Polynesian and Native American masks, and they reveal her poly-cultural inspirations and commitments.