Despite several major exhibitions of his work that have been held in Japan since the 1970s, Max Ernst is still widely considered here to be one of the most difficult and obscure of the Surrealists. Constantly exploring new ideas, methods and materials, his art is perhaps less instantly recognizable than that of, say, Rene Magritte or Salvador Dali, and less easily fathomed. Presenting a solo exhibition of the artist to a public still largely unaware of Ernst's range, concerns and importance thus poses some challenges.

While other shows have attempted to present, and interpret, his work according to the core concepts of the Surrealists, "Max Ernst — Figure × Scape," at the Yokohama Museum of Art tries the different tactic of situating his art within the more familiar traditions of landscape and figure painting. Several works early in the exhibition explore the theme of the forest — mysterious, primeval places that seem to hold dark secrets. Like many of his other works in oils, these images are highly textured, not in the sense of loosely dripped paint but by highly controlled play with palette knife in the application of paint that nonetheless keeps the picture plane flat — what the exhibition's curator, Naoaki Nakamura calls the "pictorial" texture of the works.

The concern with flatness can also be seen in Ernst's textured lithographs and in his collages, where fragments of photographs and illustrations are put together and then photographed to provide a heightened sense of pictorial unity. A clear example of this is "Santa Conversazione" (1921), in which a somewhat disturbing woman-bird-mechanical apparatus hybrid appears organic at first glance. More often, Ernst's imaginary figures are whimsical and almost cartoon-like and, considering Japan's love affair with characters and mascots, the organizers hope this will attract those unfamiliar with the artist and his creations.