MoMA show gives public a look at Spanish artist Joan Miro’s magic


New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is giving devotees of Spanish painter Joan Miro (1893-1983) an opportunity to immerse themselves in dozens of artifacts from the period when he developed his pictorial universe.

Set to open next Sunday, the exhibit “Joan Miro: Birth of the World,” aims to shed light on the artist’s formative years.

“It presents some 60 paintings, works on paper, prints, illustrated books, and objects made primarily between 1920, the year of Miro’s first, catalytic trip to Paris, and the early 1950s, when his unique visual language became internationally renowned,” MoMA said in a press release.

It was in the fall of 1925 that Miro, working at his parents’ country home in Montroig, created “The Birth of the World,” on an oversized canvas measuring 250.8 x 200 cm (8’2 3/4 x 6’6 3/4).

“In the exhibition, we can see how Miro used techniques that recall poetic procedures. He then added a series of pictographic signs that seem less painted than drawn, transforming the broken syntax, constellated space, and dreamlike imagery of avant-garde poetry into a radiantly imaginative and highly inventive form of painting,” curator Anne Umland said.

She referred to a letter Miro wrote from Montroig to his friend, French surrealist writer Michel Leiris.

“The letter read: ‘You and all my writer friends have given me much help and improved my understanding of many things.’ He wanted to do the same with his paintings,” Umland said.

Except for five “exceptional” loans from private owners, the exhibit’s 60 paintings, works on paper, prints, illustrated books, collages and other objects that come overwhelmingly from MoMA’s own holdings.

The museum has a collection of the earliest works of Miro, an artist MoMA curators “believed in” from the beginning, Umland said.

“The Birth of the World,” which the painter described to fellow surrealists Andre Breton and Paul Eluard as a “sort of genesis - the amorphous beginnings of life,” became a point for departure for the pictorial universe that MoMA is showcasing.

In “Hirondelle Amour,” the artist “wrote the words ‘hirondelle’ (swallow) and ‘amour’ (love) on the canvas, next to images of birds. Painting, drawing, reading for Miro, all those sensory experiences could be in the same piece,” Umland said.

The exhibit also includes the 6m (20ft)-long mural Miro painted in 1950 under commission for a dining room at Harvard University and a 1937 self-portrait in pencil, wax and oil.

Though Miro is typically regarded as “naughty, cheerful or funny,” he is also seen as “thoughtful, passionate and serious,” because his art “is so rich that if you give it time, you will notice that it is much deeper,” Umland said.

By Nora Quintanilla