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Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder Hardcover – September 18, 2006
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About the Author
Mark Nelson is the design director of Anthony McCall Associates in New York City. He has over fifteen years of experience designing books, brochures, and exhibition graphics for prominent museums, galleries, and artists around the country. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Sarah Bayliss has written on art and culture for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Conde Nast Traveler, among other publications. She also lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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It is certainly no contribution to a very belated solution of the case, which would be impossible anyway as most of the people directly involved (and in all likelihood the killer(s) himself) are dead by now, and to the authors' credit it must be said that there is no intention in that direction either, even though the inspiration had apparently come from Steve Hodel's "The Black Dahlia Avenger".
As a fleshing out of a point not obvious to most researchers of the case it does add considerable color to the already dapper Los Angeles of the 1940s. It is positively uncanny how much the vatious disfigured female forms of the surrealist artworks presage or echo the positioning and mutilations of Elisabeth Short's body. The attention to detailed arrangement that the major surrealists employed in their images or sculptures ist so meticulously reflected by it that it cannot at all be discounted that an artist whose blurring of sur- and realism got a little too strong may be implicated. Not the spearheads who by dint of their well-recorded travels have solid alibis, but someone at the periphery.
Like George Hodel, who, as a Los Angeles socialite and art lover, was well acquainted with many surrealists and their propagators. Add to that the fact that his career came to an abrupt end through an incest case and some anything but favorable comments by former employees of his and one may consider re-reading "The Black Dahlia Avenger".
In the end, the all-ecompassing circumstantialism does not get the "Dahliologist" any closer to the truth, but as an added viewpoint "Exquisite Corpse" (titled after a "game" invented by surrealists) is certainly worthwhile for collectors of "Dahlia"-ephemera, always bearing in mind the limitations it has regarding investigative facts as well as in relation to the history of surrealism, the perspective on which must needs be very selective. It does make a nice coffee-table book, albeit only for the stong of stomach as the photographs included (some exclusively published here) do not veil the gruesome reality of the case.