The Shape of Color: Joan Miró's Painted Sculpture
Joan Miró (Barcelona, Spain 1893-1983 Palma de Mallorca, Spain) enjoyed a protean seventy-five-year career as a painter, sculptor, muralist, and printmaker that has earned him a lasting place as one of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century. His work has been and remains an inspiring example to generations of artists around the world.
Miró concentrated on sculpture during two periods of his career. The first was in the early 1930s, when he questioned the very notion of painting itself. Although Miró worked intermittently on sculpture for the next thirty years, he did not focus on it until the 1960s and 1970s, during which time he created more than two hundred sculptures in bronze. Some were patinated (having the special finishes and colors typical of bronze), while others were painted in bright colors.
As Miró had wanted them to be, the colorful works, both small and large, were particularly innovative, and also full of mischief and sly humor. These vibrant small and large sculptures, among his most distinctive and important contributions to twentieth-century sculpture art, are the focus of the exhibition The Shape of Color: Joan Miró's Painted Sculpture. For the first time this exhibition brings together Miró's painted sculpture with the relevant sketchbooks, preparatory drawings, and archival photographs. This reunion reveals Miró's inspiration and documents his creative process, from the first quick sketch to the finished work. The Shape of Color also makes clear that even at the end of Miró's long career, his talent and originality bloomed fresh, bright, and young.
The roots of Miró's interest in sculpture run long and deep. They reach back to when he was a student at Barcelona's Escola d'Art, where he worked with Francesc d'Assis Galí. This innovative teacher encouraged his pupils to put on a blindfold, feel an object or face, and then draw it from memory. Miró later recalled that these exercises were essential to his understanding of form.
Miró made his first three-dimensional objects in the 1930s while he was living in Paris, part of his attempt to "assassinate" painting and explore new means of expression. In 1930 he had a carpenter build him wooden constructions, and in 1931-1932 and again in 1936 he arranged and painted Surrealist assemblages of objects.
Miró described a kind of "shock" or "spark" between himself and the varied objects he collected-things that seemed ordinary to other people spoke poetically to Miró. His new sculptures included parts of plants and trees, abandoned shells, simple farm tools, pieces of machinery, casts of ceramics he and Josep Llorens Artigas had made, and some plain old trash that he assembled and then had cast. Miró succinctly explained that this type of sculpture "has to do with the unlikely marriage of recognizable forms." His technique of making it was clearly related to the way he and his Surrealist colleagues had created object sculptures in the 1930s. They exploited and celebrated the extraordinary embedded in the everyday, a notion famously summed up as being "as beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella."
Miró's late sculptures are also decidedly figurative, if not really human. He often titled them Personnage, meaning not only "figure" but also "character," as in a player of a theatrical role. Out of the stuff he collected, he had at last created the sculptures he had imagined many years earlier, "monsters" to keep him company in the studio.