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William Baziotes

Cyclops, 1947

Oil on canvas

<p>Profoundly affected by his encounters with Surrealists who were living in New York City in the 1940s, such as Matta, William Baziotes explored his imagination and incorporated automatism, or automatic drawing, and biomorphic imagery into his art practice. Part of a small group of single-image paintings, this work depicts a combination of a rhinoceros and the mythical one-eyed Cyclops. Inspired by an encounter that the artist had with his favorite animal at the zoo, the artist explained: “I had some peanuts, and as I gave them to the rhino, he sucked my hand and held it. My wife got scared but I was terribly interested. He was playful and cute and toylike, but at the same time he chilled me. He seemed prehistoric and his eyes were cold and deadly.” This work was denounced as “unintelligible” by mainstream critics, but it was awarded a prize in a juried exhibition of abstract and Surrealist American art held at the Art Institute in 1947–48.</p>