Gallery Wendi Norris presents Musical Chairs, an exhibition centered around two rare oil paintings by luminary artist Dorothea Tanning (b. 1910, Galesburg, IL; d. 2012, New York, NY). Five years after featuring in her landmark retrospective at the Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain) and the Tate Modern (London, UK), Tanning’s Musical Chairs (1951) and Door 84 (1984) meet again for their inaugural San Francisco display.

Exhibiting in the U.S. for the first time in over seventy years, Musical Chairs depicts an adolescent girl sliding off a high-back chair into a cat-like posture, ignoring the swathes of golden cloth subsuming her limbs. These faceted planes of fabric––a signature Tanning motif––juxtaposed with the girl’s composure, evoke the contradictory moods of vigor and serenity. The painting stands out within Tanning’s oeuvre as a convergence of her interests in Gothic literature, designing for ballet productions, and experimenting with abstraction.

Created thirty-three years later and more than twice the size of Musical Chairs, Tanning’s Door 84 similarly radiates her iconic yellow palette, though with much more fluid brushstrokes. A distinct example of her fascination with portals, this composition strikingly features an actual door’s edge, echoing the found object assemblages of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Tanning heightens the image’s tension by choreographing two figures blocking one another from getting to the other side of the door.

Highlighting the seated figures in both Musical Chairs and Door 84, these paintings playfully hang among unique chairs by Rachel Shillander, Chris Wolston, Arflex, Campagna for Roll & Hill, and Orior, artists represented by leading contemporary design gallery The Future Perfect. The rich and layered textures in Tanning’s paintings play off the textured fabrics and surfaces of the chairs, bridging the modern and the contemporary. Like a game of musical chairs, this staging creates an immersive environment for engaging with Tanning’s work.

Musical Chairs is the gallery’s fifth exhibition with Tanning and follows recent major institutional shows recognizing her art historical contributions, including Cecilia Alemani’s 59th Venice Biennale The Milk of Dreams (2022) and Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity (2022–2023), a collaboration between the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice, Italy) and the Museum Barberini (Potsdam, Germany).

Furthermore, a watershed exhibition celebrating Surrealism’s centennial, Imagine! 100 Years of International Surrealism (2024–2026), will also honor Tanning. On display for two years, this show begins at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels, Belgium), then travels to the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg, Germany), the Fundación MAPFRE (Madrid, Spain), and concludes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).