James Seehafer, The Landing (2007) Photography & digital collage
James Seehafer, The Landing (2007) Photography & digital collage

Massurrealism is a portmanteau word coined in 1992 by American artist James Seehafer,[1] who described a trend among some postmodern artists that mix the aesthetic styles and themes of surrealism and mass media—including pop art.[1]


James Seehafer, Untitled 1990 (2007) SFX photography, digital collage.
James Seehafer, Untitled 1990 (2007) SFX photography, digital collage.

Massurrealism is a development of surrealism that emphasizes the effect of technology and mass media on contemporary surrealist imagery.[1] James Seehafer who is credited with coining the term in 1992[1] said that he was prompted to do so because there was no extant definition to accurately characterize the type of work he was doing, which combined elements of surrealism and mass media, the latter consisting of technology and pop art—"a form of technology art."[2] He had begun his work by using a shopping cart, and then incorporating collages of colour photocopies and spray paint with the artist's traditional medium of oil paint.[2]

In 1995, he assembled a small group show near New York City and found a local cyber-cafe, where he started to post material about massurrealism on internet arts news groups, inspiring some German art students to stage a massurrealist show.[2] The next year he started his own web site, www.massurrealism.com and began to receive work from other artists, both mixed media and digitally-generated.[2] He credits the World Wide Web with a major role in communicating massurrealism,[2] which spread interest from artists in Los Angeles, Mexico[3] and then Europe.[4] Seehafer has said:

I am not being credited with inventing a new technique, nor I don't think I should be credited with starting a new art movement, but rather simply coining a word to categorize the type of modern day surrealist art that had been lacking in definition. As a result, word "massurrealism" has received a lot of enthusiasm from artists. Though there are some who feel that defining something essentially limits it, the human condition has always had the need to categorize and classify everything in life.[2]

The differentiating factor, according to Seehafer, between surrealism and massurrealism is the foundation of the former in the early 20th century in Europe before the spread of electronic mass media.[2] It is difficult to define the visual style of massurrealism, though a general characteristic is the use of modern technology to fuse surrealism's traditional access to the unconscious with pop art's ironic contradictions.[5]

In 2005, graffiti artist Banksy illicitly hung a rock in the British Museum showing a caveman pushing a shopping cart, which Shelley Esaak of about.com described as "a nice tribute to James Seehafer and Massurrealism."[6]


British artist Alan King started to experiment with a combination of digital and traditional art methods in the 1990s, producing a majority of his works with photography and using computer techniques combines digital images with a multitude of traditional methods including oils, ink, acrylic, and watercolour.[7]

Nationally renowned photographer Chip Simons[according to whom?] incorporates both his photo images with digital collage.[8]

German artist Melanie Marie Kreuzhof, who describes her work as massurrealistic, was commissioned in 2004 by the editor of the Spectakel Salzburger Festsiele Inside magazine to produce an artwork about Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt at the Salzburg Festival.[9] To make her work she took 9 digital photographs, composed them in a computer and printed the result directly onto canvas, which was then attached to a wooden frame, worked on with acrylic paint and had objects attached—3 guitar strings, a strand of hair and a silk scarf.[9] The images and elements were derived from themes in the opera.

Other artists include Cecil Touchon who works with sound collage & poetry,[10] and conceptual artist / film set designer Jean Pierre Trevor describes his 'massurreal approach' to his multi-media work.[11]

American Southern artist John R. Adams / Johnny Ramage's work consists of digital media, photography, and random Google images chosen through an automatic style and rendered in unsophisticated photo editing software. Ramage's work often focuses on ominous, absurd images inspired by frightening childhood events all depicted in style that suggests a low-fi, or 8-bit and contemporary aesthetic.[3]

Melanie Marie Kreuzhof
Melanie Marie Kreuzhof, Die tote Stadt (2004).
Alan King
Alan King, The Brick Room (2009).
Chip Simons
Chip Simons, Putin On The Ritz (2014).

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Adam. "massurrealism", Intute:arts and humanities (University of Oxford and Manchester Metropolitan University), 17 October 2003. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Seehafer, James. "Discussions: The Artist and Modern Society." Archived 2008-06-08 at the Wayback Machine, lecture on Massurrealism at Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg Russia, 20 June 2000. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Conoce más sobre el MASSURREALISMO? - Mexico City" Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Massurrealismus (Massurrealism)", Ketterer Kunst Auction House, Munich Germany. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  5. ^ "Other Art and related items", Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  6. ^ Esaak, Shelley. "Banksymus Maximus", about.com, 22 May 2005. Archive originally retrieved 8 March 2008.
  7. ^ Cover Impressions [1] Cover artist bio article - overview of Alan King & massurrealism - April 2010 (printed edition – Virginia, USA).
  8. ^ Chip Simons: Massurreal Art Photos - mention of style and technique. [2]
  9. ^ a b Dixon, Troy. "'Die tote Stadt', 2004", korngold-society.org. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  10. ^ Touchon, Cecil (2007). Happy Shopping - Massurrealist Spam Poetry. Ontological Museum Publications. ISBN 978-0615182445.
  11. ^ Lantzen, Sean (2004). Massurrealism: A Dossier (a.k.a. Massurrealismus: Ein Dossier). Writings and conversations on the massurrealist art genre. Zurich: Novus Haus. pp. 109–110. ISBN 0-9759923-0-9.

Further reading