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The art of Joan Miró at the Tate Modern.

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Joan Miró: the Ladder of Escape” at the Tate Modern

Wednesday, 20th April 2011 – David Franchi

moroAfter 50 year a major Miró exhibition returns to London, at the Tate Modern, until the 11th September 2011. “Joan Miró: the Ladder of Escape” focuses on his political and social engagement, exploring his Catalan identity, the Spanish Civil war and his critical opposition to the Franco’s regime. The marvellous exhibition brings together over 150 paintings, works on paper and sculptures from collections around the world.

The celebrated master Joan Miró i Ferrà was born in Barcelona the 20th of April 1893 (died 25th December 1983) in a family of a goldsmith and watchmaker. He grew up in the Barri Gòtic in Barcelona. He began drawing classes aged seven and, in 1907, he enrolled at La Lonja School of Fine Art, in defiance of his father. In 1912, he was at the Galì School of Art. His first solo show (1918) at the Dalmau gallery was derided. He then moved to Paris in 1920 on the wake of the Cubist and Surrealist artists and he got involved in the Montparnasse community.

However, he continued to spend his summers in the family farm in Mont – roig in Catalonia, a key place for his production. At the Tate exhibition in the “Room 1: the farm and Mont-roig, 1917-23” on display his famous ‘La Ferme’ (The Farm, 1921-2), a step forward in his personal style, that was purchased by Ernest Hemingway. Other notably works are ‘The tilled field’ and ‘Catalan landscape (The hunter)’ both dated 1923-24.

The military coup of Primo de Rivera (1923) suppressed the Catalan autonomy hitting Miró, who developed the extraordinary series ‘The head of Catalan Peasant’ to celebrate the cultural identity under siege. The “Room 2: the head of Catalan peasant and Paris, 1924-6” deals also with the connections between Miró, the Surrealism, his interest in automatism and the use of sexual symbols. His style was influenced by Surrealism and Dada,yet he rejected membership to any artistic movement to remain free to experiment. André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, described him as “the most Surrealist of us all.”

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In the series ‘Animated landscape’ Miró returns to the depiction of Mont- roig through the lens of the Surrealism. This is the theme of “Room 3: the Animated landscape, 1926-27” showing the more radicalised language of the artist. Here remarkably also ‘Dog barking at the moon’ (1926). Miró was also part of the Generation of ’27, a collective made up of Spanish poets, writers, painters and film makers that included Miguel Hernández, José María Hinojosa and García Lorca who were murdered by General Franco. Miró, Buñuel and a few others of the group were able to flee for France and the US.

The falling of the Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (1931) brought to the Catalan Republic, later bloodily suppressed. This is the focus of the “Room 4: Metamorphosis and the Republic, 1934- 36” where outstandingly series the ‘Savage Paintings’ and the ‘Metamorphosis’ are on display. Miró put in them the anxiously atmosphere and the political turmoil of this period.

From July 1936 the Civil War shaken the country when Generals took the power of the South Spain, but Anarchists and Communists were controlling Barcelona. Miró went to exile in France. In the “Room 5: Still Life with Old Shoe and the Spanish Civil war, 1936-38” on display the Miró series of furious abstract paintings. Besides, he exposed at the “Exposition Internationale” in Paris a mural ‘The Reaper’, aside of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, but it got lost. Miró also exposed ‘Aidez l’Espagne’ (Help Spain), both work were intended to be sold to support the Catalan Republic during the war. ‘Still Life with Old Shoe’ is the key work of this period.

moro3

In 1939, General Franco was controlling the whole Spain and the Second World War started. This is the theme of the “Room 6: the Barcelona Series and the Phoney War, 1939-40” and around this period Miró conceived the fifty lithograph ‘Barcelona Series’. The works of Miró reflect this atmosphere of concern and desperation.

In the “Room 7: The Constellations, 1940-1” on display one of the most famous series of Miró. He started ‘The Constellations’ in spite of the pre- war situation in France. When the German army invaded the Low Countries Miró decided to go back to Spain in Mallorca to live in ‘internal exile’.

In 1947 Miró and his family travelled to New York. This trip represented a reconnection with the international art world. He revisited the imagery of ‘The Constellations’ on a larger scale. This can be seen in the “Room 8: Figures and Constellations, 1948-9”.

Then Miró started to work with ceramics for a decade. But in 1960s painting and sculpture returned to be central in his art. In the “Room 9: Sculpture and message from a friend, 1960s” are on show double dated paintings that have been put in storage in Paris since Miró left the city and then elaborated again in this period.

In the “Room 10: Triptychs, 1961-2” are two works Miró made in his studio in Mallorca. To make the triptychs he inspired himself to the American Abstract Expressionism.

In 1968 student’s demonstrations arrived also in Spain. “Room 11: May 1968 and the burnt canvases, 1968-73” deals with this period. In 1968 Barcelona celebrated the “Miró Year” for his seventy-fifth birthday. He painted directly the windows of the Association of the Architect and, despite the regime, on exhibition there were works of his Republican period. Here notably the ‘Burnt canvases’ (1973) a challenge to orthodox ideas.

 Triptychs painted in the eighteenth century house Miró bought as an additional studio are on display in the “Room 12: triptychs, 1968-73”. It was a concentrated space that inspired the titles of these works: ‘Painting on white background for the cell of a recluse’ (1968) and ‘The hope of a condemned man’. Miró linked the latter to the execution of the Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich (1974).

The last gallery “Room 13: Fireworks, 1973-5” reflects the experimentation Miró made in his career. The triptych ‘Fireworks’, together with the other works on display, reveal his energy in opposing to the Franco’s regime that will end in 1975 and mirror the political mood of his work.

“Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape” is co-organised by Tate Modern and the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, where it will be seen in October 2011, before travelling to the National Gallery of Art, Washington in May 2012. The exhibition is conceived by Tate Modern curators Matthew Gale, Marko Daniel and Kerryn Greenberg in collaboration with Teresa Montaner, curator at Fundació Joan Miró. Rosa Maria Malet, Director, Fundació Joan Miró, and Vicente Todolí, former Director, Tate Modern, are consultants.

“Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape” is not a coming in itself but it is coordinated with many events, such as film programme, talks, courses. The exhibition marks the beginning of ‘Miró & Catalan Culture’, a season of art, dance, music and theatre taking place throughout London from April to September 2011. This series of events has been supported and coordinated by the Institut Ramon Llull, created by the Government of Catalonia and The Government of the Balearic Islands to promote Catalan culture abroad.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.com

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/the-art-of-joan-mir%c3%b3-at-the-tate-modern./

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Written by davidfranchi

April 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm

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