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Monday, March 14, 2011

Joan Miro

If one wished to undertake a study of abstract art, I can think of no better place to start than with the work of the Spanish surrealist/abstractionist, Joan Miro. There is a historical perspective in terms of the development of abstraction but studying this difficult vein of art from that point of view is rather dry and academic, it offers little help in terms of understanding abstraction. Miro on the other hand is "lite" abstraction. He's a fun artist. Even in some of his "heavier" works, there is still a lighthearted, squiggly playfulness that makes his painting much easier to digest than a DeKooning or Franz Kline, for example. Somehow, we get the feeling Miro's work doesn't take itself too seriously.     
The Tilled Field, 1923-24, Joan Miro

 Born in 1893 in Barcelona, Spain, Miro was the sun of a successful goldsmith. Like many artists, he exhibited prodigious talent from childhood though with apparently little encouragement from his parents. Upon graduation from high school they forced him into an office job.  When he became ill, he was sent to the family farm to recover. There he found the freedom to pursue his first love--painting.  The First World War came and went. Realizing their son was serious about an art career, his parents allowed him to attend art school. In the 1920's, like so many other would-be artists, Joan Miro found his way to the capital of the art world at the time--Paris. There he started out painting quaint, story-book-like farm scenes from his childhood. But the avant-garde quickly invaded his psyche and his work began to become more and more symbolic. He flirted with Dali's surrealism, toyed with Picasso's cubism, and played endlessly with abstracted forms popular with any number of artists of the time, even going so far to paint abstractionist versions of famous Dutch masterpieces.   
La Lecon die Ski, 1966, Joan Miro
With the deja-vu of WWII tormenting him, he fled France for his homeland, the horrors of Nazism in France for the fascist "security" of Spain, only to find it necessary to flee again, this time into himself--into his deepest inner being where he explored the fantasy dreams and nightmares, drawing them out from his psyche, onto hundreds of canvases representing his mature style. Symbolic elements recurred, ladders, mobile-like figures, spidery figures, chirping figures, all floating about over visually textured surfaces of make-believe environments. Miro is a good primer in the study of abstraction. There is an easy progression from the representational, through the symbolic, to the non-representational with little side-trips to surrealism and cubism. Late in his life, Miro moved once more to the US, where he undertook a number of murals celebrating the delightful little world of his inner self. He died in 1984 at the age of 91.

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