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Remedios Varo: Science Fictions



Mystical musicians, eccentric scientists, voyagers in curious contraptions—Remedios Varo (1908–1963) mixed notions from disparate fields of knowledge to create modern paintings suffused with material enchantment.

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Ciencia inútil, o El alquimista (Useless Science, or The Alchemist), 1955

Remedios Varo. Museo de Arte Moderno. INBAL / Secretaría de Cultura. © 2023 Remedios Varo, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid. Photo by Rodrigo Chapa

Born in Spain, Varo (María de los Remedios Alicia y Rodriga Varo y Uranga) fled Europe in 1941 due to the growing dangers of World War II and emigrated permanently to Mexico City, where she worked amid a community of Mexican and European artists who drew inspiration from the culture and geography of Mexico. It was here that Varo developed her unique practice of juxtaposing Surrealist chance-based techniques with imagery from disciplines as wide-ranging as chivalric romance, ecology, geographic explorations, feminist critique, mysticism, psychology, and tarot. 

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Remedios Varo: Science Fictions—the first museum exhibition dedicated to the artist in the United States since 2000—brings together more than 20 paintings Varo created in Mexico from 1955 until her death in 1963. Additional materials from the artist’s archive—large-scale cartoons for paintings, notebooks, sketches, detailed studies, ephemera, and personal possessions—offer an even deeper understanding of her distinct and diverse practice. The exhibition’s subtitle, Science Fictions, alludes to the tensions and possibilities Varo brought together in her work as she searched to visualize hidden orders and unseen truths. 

The exhibition builds upon the Art Institute’s 90-year tradition of collecting, exhibiting, and producing new research on Surrealist artworks, and it marks a significant milestone in the museum’s efforts to expand the borders of this global movement. Notably, this will be the Art Institute’s first solo exhibition dedicated to a woman Surrealist painter and to a woman artist working in Mexico. 

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Remedios Varo: Science Fictions is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, in partnership with the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City and is curated by Caitlin Haskell, the Art Institute’s Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and guest curator Tere Arcq.


A generously illustrated exhibition catalogue, edited by the curators and designed by Lorraine Wild and Ching Wang, features contributions by leading and emerging scholars in Mexico and the United States. Learn more.


Major support for Remedios Varo: Science Fictions is provided by Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Angela Lustig and Dale Taylor, and Gary Metzner and Scott Johnson.

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