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During the decades of 1940 and 1950, a large group of European artists connected to the surrealist movement settled in Mexico City. There, a circle for promoting abstract and fantastic art was formed in gatherings and galleries where those modes of expression were discussed and spread. Born in Catalonia, Remedios Varo reached professional maturity in that environment, in exile after fleeing from the Spanish Civil War and Nazism. By 1942, memorable meetings were being held at Varo and Benjamin Péret’s apartment—attended by Leonora Carrington, Alice Rahon, Wolfgang Paalen, and Kati and José Horna, among others. At this stage and until her death, Varo produced her most remarkable works. "Ícono" stands out in her production by its particular structure, built as a medieval altarpiece usually closed to preserve the energy of the image, and open only for specific liturgical feasts.

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