Salvador Dalí was skating on thin ice. It was a shtick and he was doing his shtick. He would open his eyes wide and give the patented Dalí stare. Surrealism. Granted, Andre Breton was never exactly a paragon of personal dignity but at least there was something at stake in the early days. By the end, Dalí was nothing but a parody of the thing he’d created of himself.

But it isn’t all crap, and that’s the revelation at the heart of the new exhibition “Dali: Painting & Film” (now leaving the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for St. Petersburg, Florida, and then MoMA this summer). Somewhere between the posing and the vamping and the recycling of tired imagery he created something. It was a new kind of landscape and, I think, a new kind of realism. The technique was relatively simple. He took the luminosity from some of… More…