Black light

Michael Löwy: metaphysical indigestion


Preface to Michael Löwy's recently released book

Michael Löwy is known for his in-depth critical work within the framework of Marxist and libertarian thought. However, his practice in the field of visual arts is less known. It originates from his first contacts with surrealism when he was still young, after meeting Benjamin Péret in 1958, in Paris.

After joining the international surrealist movement through the Parisian group in the early 1970s, this thinker of the insurgent currents, linked to Walter Benjamin, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, Charles Fourier and Flora Tristan, established his elective affinities with André Breton, Péret, Franz Kafka, Vincent Bounoure, Michel Zimbacca, Guy Girard, Sergio Lima and many others, revealing their critical and poetic, dialectical and plastic vision.

Clearly the public is unfamiliar with Michael Löwy's militant surrealist verve, so evident in books like The morning star[I] e the glowing comet[ii], in his active participation in important magazines such as The Phala, Salamander, Mists Blondes, analog, SURR…, Alcheringa and movement exhibitions[iii], also unaware of his collages, gouaches and drawings, which are the result of a lifelong search for a re-enchanted world in which the man of revolution would carry with him the black light of profane illumination.

The path of the libertarian is illuminated by this light, within which the principles of surrealism could not fail to fully manifest themselves. After all, we know that “art”, for the surrealists, is a mechanism, an anti-capitalist tool for transformation and emancipation of the spirit. We cannot fail to emphasize André Breton's maxim: “'Transform the world', said Marx; 'Life-changing', said Rimbaud. For us, these two slogans are one.”

In the face of these plastic manifestations, what is so dear to man is established: freedom. And the artist transforms his existence, his spirit that shines in the depths of his being, into total revolt. He illuminates the darkness. He extracts from everyday reality what is most wild and poetic in man. Therein lies true surrealism, as presented in these works.

In an expanded reality, the sense of psychic automatism, the desacralization of merchandise/art and its critical mobilization are presented as fermentation. Michael Löwy's creations are endowed with an unsettling language, often of an ontological nature, as many of his work titles are more than inclined towards philosophy and humor.[iv] – in this case, we would say dark humor – because, like few others, the artist delved into the abyss of romanticism[v] and surrealism as revolutionary practices.

According to Sarane Alexandrian, to understand the surrealist artists, it is necessary to know that they all considered art not as an end in itself, but as a means of asserting what was most precious, most secret and most surprising in life. . They didn't want to be artisans or aesthetes: just inspired and playful[vi]. This can be seen in the works of Michael Löwy, who is also an inspired joker: they are collages, drawings and paintings created when the surrealist spirit intervenes, automatically taking the artist's hand and causing him to expand reality based on his desires.

Michael Löwy's “scribbles”, demons of insurgent thought that organize themselves in a goetic of colors and shapes, are born from the gaze that André Breton declared to exist “in a wild state”. It's about seeing what is and, beyond that, what can be when we put ourselves on the magical frequency of discovery. It is also about setting these demons in motion so that they can be called upon against any oppressive order.

For Max Ernst, collage, as an approximation of distant realities, is equivalent to the language and poetic image of the surrealists. The idea of ​​an encounter – loving, voluptuous – between disparate images that disturb and transfigure reality is at the heart of this practice. It is interesting to note that Michael Löwy uses this surrealist practice in different ways: in some cases, the artist brings together images on the same support, thus creating something new. In others, he creates something similar to drawing on a highlighted page, drawing colored lines between and above the letters. And, sometimes, we also find collages in which the cutting of a human silhouette, or a face, on a cartographic page generates dreamlike image effects and high tension.

m “What is voluptuousness?”, text published in number 3 of the surrealist magazine The Phala, Michael Löwy declares: “Volume is the only color we can hear with our eyes closed. Neither 'calm' nor 'lustful', it escapes all control of reason.”[vii]. It is with his eyes closed to the tiny reality that Michael presents us with the images in this book, where the game of voluptuousness unfolds freely.

It is a delicious corpse, voluptuously composed page by page, image by image, in which its surrealist positioning, its philosophical and poetic, insurgent and revolutionary concepts meet in the profane philosophical splendor of the image.

*Alex Januário is a visual artist.

*Elvio Fernandes is a musician.


Michael Lowy. Black light. Scribbles, collages and surrealist gouaches. Bilingual edition. São Paulo, Editora 100/cabedas, 2023, 134 pages. (


[I] Löwy, Michael. L'étoile du matin: surrealism and marxisme. Paris: Syllepse, 2000. [Ed. Brazilian: The Morning Star: Surrealism and Marxism. Trans. Eliana Aguiar. Boitempo Editorial. 2018.]. (

[ii] Löwy, Michael. The incandescent comedy: romanticism, surrealism, subversion. Orange: Éditions le Retrait, 2020. [Ed. Brazilian: The incandescent comet: romanticism, surrealism, subversion. Trans. Diogo Cardoso and Elvio Fernandes.São Paulo: 100/ Cabeças, 2020]. (

[iii] We highlight, among others, the exhibition Magnetic Fields – collage and surrealism, held in 2019 at the Octávio Ianni Library of the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences at Unicamp.

[iv] Jacques Vaché defines humor as “a feeling (…) of the theatrical uselessness (and joylessness) of everything”. For the poet Diogo Cardoso, this theatricality that characterizes war cards it manifests itself (but not only) in Vaché's appropriation of characters and terms from other authors. Löwy's works presented in this book go in the same direction. See Vaché, Jacques. War Cards. Translation and notes by Diogo Cardoso. São Paulo: Editions 100/heads, 2021.

[v] See Löwy, Michael; Sayre, Robert. Révolte et mélancolie: romance à counter-courant de la modernité. Paris: Payot, 1992. [Ed. Brazilian: Löwy, Michael Sayre, Robert. Revolt and melancholy: romanticism against the grain of modernity. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1995].

[vi] Alexandrian, Sarane. L'art surrealiste. Paris: Fernand Hazan editor, 1969. p. 8.

[vii] Löwy, Michael. “Qu'est-ce que la volupté?”. In: Lima, Sergio; Corrales, José Miguel Pérez. (org.). Phala. Almanac with the themes The Inaugural Rupture and the Body/Transgression. Surrealist Movement Magazine, n. 3, volume II, p. 137. Carnival 2015.

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