Miró: The Experience of Seeing is the potpourri of Seattle Art Museum’s recent special exhibitions. Featuring work from the last two decades (1963-1981) of Surrealist and abstract expressionist Joan Miró’s career, the SAM borrows 61 classically bold paintings and bronze-cast sculptures from the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
The first painting viewers glimpse— both in the museum and on advertising— is a distinctly un-three-dimensional, primary colored form: “Woman, Bird, and Star (Homage to Picasso),” 1966. The minimal lines, distinct shapes, and unblended colors are naturally evocative of Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder, among other 20th century extreme modernists, who Miró admired and was oft inspired by.
The Catalan Spanish artist’s paintings wander through the sweeping concepts of space, the subconscious, and movement. Miró believed that painting should ignite the imagination; his canvases (or pieces of cardboard) certainly don’t reveal a clear meaning in one look. “Poem to the Glory of Sparkles,” 1969, shows the “erratic course of firecrackers” and outer space, though they could be scattered, colorful prescription pills united by a black line of movement (a thematic constant of Miró’s).
Some classify Miró’s art as “childlike.” Maybe it’s the purple handprints, soft strokes of finger painting, or smiley faces. It’s inventive and interpretive— the ragged brushstrokes can be seen as imperfect or innovative; “The Dance of the Poppies,” 1973, can be three red blobs of acrylic and two winding lines, or a study of transcendentalism and aspirations of the spirit. Regardless, it takes more than a kindergartener’s capabilities to think of one’s paintings in terms of immobility and immobile movement, citing Immanuel Kant’s philosophies as a basis.
The exhibition space is also filled by patinated bronze sculptures, all made of found metal objects with a light blue-green finish. “Head in the Night,” 1968, asks questions about imagined space with a broken picture frame and protruding wire, also ironic for the frame sits upon a log rather than a pedestal. Imagination comes again into play as the motions and positions of other museum goers alter the art piece. “The Warrior King,” 1981, features a man brandishing a wooden spoon, perhaps commenting on modern warfare. Many of the three-dimensional works are representations of a round or sometimes more abstractly shaped female figure, reminiscent of Picasso. Miró is remembered for his oil and acrylic based paintings, making the sculptures a unique addition, if at first seemingly out of place. His sculptures fit best with the darker paintings, as both represent a “phantasmagoric world of living monsters.”
During the 20-year time span, viewers witness a shift with Miró’s products when he dabbled in the grotesque. Moving from the room with red, green, and black shapes, viewers are assaulted by overlapping pinks, browns, murky blues, dark oranges. Understandable reactions include, “Where’s the white?” It’s darker and grimier, and an interesting break. These are far more sinister, especially compared to the rain clouds and green grass of “Landscape,” 1976.
As he distanced himself from the Surrealist movement, Miró’s style changed to become what is the exhibition. Modern art enthusiast or not, Miró: The Experience of Seeing is an opportunity to view one of Spain’s most deserving artists and his universe of the imaginary.
Miró: The Experience of Seeing is at the Seattle Art Museum until May 26. After you go to the exhibit, learn more about Joan Miro at the library.
– Greta, 16, Teen Center Adviser