Some selections from "The Imaginative World of Dalí" Credit: Courtesy Zygman Voss Gallery

I haven’t thought about Salvador Dalí since high school, a time when melting clocks, genitalia, and sundry visual jokes are especially well suited to the overheated adolescent psyche. Dalí specialized in realistic renderings of the subconscious, fantasy imagery as described and popularized by Freudian psychoanalysis. Like his fellow surrealists, he loved to shock and provoke with his art; what teenager doesn’t want to do the same? I tried to recall that period of my life while visiting “The Imaginative World of Dalí,” an exhibit currently on view at Zygman Voss Gallery.

Pulled from publisher Pierre Argillet’s collection, the show features etchings, drawings, sculpture, and tapestries produced from the 1930s to the ’70s. The ubiquity of Dalí’s more popular images makes it difficult to see his work anew, so it’s reassuring to encounter a grouping of his work selected by one person and thereby reflective of that individual’s particular taste.

Salvador Dalí, Argus: ArgusCredit: Sun-Times Media

Dalí’s artistic peak came in the late 20s to the early 30s, a period during which he collaborated with Luis Buñuel on Un Chien Andalou and painted The Persistence of Memory; unfortunately, the majority of what’s on display is from the late 60s, a less inspiring era. Most of the selections started as scribbles, dots, or ink blots that Dalí shaped into figures, which are often naked women. The idea of finding meaning in random accident is a well-known surrealist strategy, but by the time most of the material in “The Imaginative World” was executed, Dalí had been flogging this particular dead horse for at least 30 years. Most of these prints have a listless, dashed-off, unfinished feel. Even the hand-painted dabs of watercolor that are applied to many of them look generic, like they were done on a production line. Given the lucrative possibilities of anything with Dalí’s signature on it, I’d surmise that some (if not much) of the work on these editions was done by printers and assistants.

Salvador Dalí, Girafe en FeuCredit: Sun-Times Media

Four large, handmade tapestries from the 70s are a charming reimagining of the artist’s style. Transferred onto fabric and thread, the tiresome weirdness of Dalí’s imagination is here transformed into cheerful decoration. I could see Girafe en Feu, a tapestry with a burning giraffe on it, gracing the wall of a child’s room (if the parents had a sense of humor, of course).

I still can’t take Dalí very seriously. The symbolism and sexuality of his work is now dated and risible, and his efforts to jolt viewers no longer pack a punch. But when paired with talented craftsmen—like those who wove the four tapestries on display—or a master filmmaker like Buñuel, Dalí’s harlots and demons can still be counted on to dance their merry jigs and entertain our eyes from time to time.

“The Imaginative World of Dalí,” Through Sat 6/11, Tue-Sat 11 AM-5 PM, Sun-Mon by appointment only, Zygman Voss Gallery, 222 W. Superior,, free.