November 08, 2008

Miró at MoMA

"I want to assassinate painting" announced the Spanish Surrealist artist Joan Miró in 1927. And with that statement began a watershed period in art history as he embarked on a 10 year period of "creative destruction" exploring new techniques, new materials and a new ideology in keeping with the revolutionary air of the time.

The Museum of Modern Art's current exhibition "Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting" focus' on this tumultuous stage in the artist's career. From 1927 when he began a series of paintings on bare, unprimed canvas, through 1937 when he returned to figurative painting but with some new twists, Miró's rebellious decade provides plenty of material for an engaging and informative show.

Joan Miró (1893-1983) had a long and glorious career and many exhibitions have been devoted to cataloguing his creative achievements. However, the MoMA show is the first time that this specific era has been explored as a cathartic period resulting in a new kind of art. Arranged chronologically, the exhibit begins at the beginning, the raw canvas works of 1927 (see above "Un Oiseau poursuit une abeille et la baisse"), proceeds through the "Spanish Dancers" of 1928, the "Dutch Interiors and Imaginary Portraits" (see right "Dutch Interior I", 1928), and "Collages" of 1929. With "Large Paintings on White Grounds", Miró says goodbye to painting and moves toward "Constructions and Objects" made of found items - a response to the financial restraints caused by Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Miró's artistic journey continued with "Paintings Based on Collages", 1933, "Drawings/Collages", 1933-34, "Pastels" and a return to color in 1934 and finally "Paintings on Cardboard", 1935. This last series was a sort of self-orchestrated retrospective as he painted 16 works in 5 months, all on identical sheets of cardboard with the objective "to attain a maximum intensity with a minimum of means" (see left "Rope and People I"). The group of "Small Paintings on Masonite and Copper", completed in 1935-36, reflect the impending disaster of the Spanish Civil War as the artist reacts to the turmoil in his homeland.

In October of 1936 Miró fled Spain for Paris where he remained in exile for 4 years. The following year marked the end of his "creative destruction" as he announced his intent to "do something absolutely different - to return to working from life". But his work, like the world around him, had undergone a sea change and he could never go back to the ways of old. This exhibition is an exhaustive look at the process of change - a revolution from within - essential to art, and life. "Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting" remains on view until January 12, 2009.

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