"Since the age of the cave-dwellers, art has done nothing but degenerate." So said Joan Miro, one of the most unique painter-sculptors of the twentieth century. Miro's statement, aside from revealing his views on the history of art, also says something... [more]
"Since the age of the cave-dwellers, art has done nothing but degenerate." So said Joan Miro, one of the most unique painter-sculptors of the twentieth century. Miro's statement, aside from revealing his views on the history of art, also says something about his own artistic aims. He wanted to bring art back to its primitive, playful origins, to paint as if he were painting on the wall of a cave. Eschewing every technique of representation that the intervening centuries of art had spawned, Miro's paintings are flat. There is no attempt to create the illusion of depth; his simplified, linear figures float in an ethereal, boundless space. Never interested in representing real places and objects, Miro painted from a land of dreams, a land in which fanciful, sporadic associations determine the distribution of things. A member of the proudly independent Catalan culture, Miroalways sought his own path to artistic expression. Of course, influences are evident in his work -- especially from Surrealism, which gave Miro his license to express unconscious instincts. But everything that Miro adopted was ultimately transformed into something distinctly his own. Taking his cue from the Surrealists, Miro abandoned traditional, imitative pictorial language and pursued instead an imagery based on memory, associations, nocturnal visions, physical experiences, and fantasy. Sometimes the childlike innocence of the fanciful forms and bright colors seems random, or even accidental. But when we look closer, we begin to notice the heavy, dark outlines, the extravagant use of black, which seems to root objects in their places, inscribing them with stark intentionality. At the same time that these forms seem to arise out of naive invention, there is something ominous or even foreboding about them. As one critic put it, Miro's "dreams are nightmares and man inspires him with disgust." Yet somehow Miro takes this ominous vision and, through an act of optimistic will, turns it into an expression of childlike exuberance -- without letting us forget where that exuberance originated.