Miro and the Tears of A clown: Harlequin Carnival

“Painting or poetry is made as we make love,” said Joan Miro. His personages are hot- blooded, but they have a sense of decency: they do not like to be caught in the act. And so, even while we have been looking, the maiden has turned into a dog- or is it a mushroom?- and the star has extended into a ladder, leading from nowhere to nowhere.

“Find flowers that are chairs,” the French poet Arthur Rimbaud has asked. For Miro, this is no trouble at all. In his world, flowers turn into butterflies, butterflies into hens, hens into moons- provided they are not all these things at once. They are made of a rubberlike substance endowed with a gift of incessant metamorphosis. What is this gigantic monster? An amoeba. And this infinitesimal dot? A horse.

"Constellation N° 3 - Personnages dans la nuit guidés par les traces phosphorescentes des escargots"

Though it would be cruelto ruin the naive pleasure people find in his fantastic universe of signs, it would be equally wrong to treat Miro as a decorative artist, a teller of lighthearted grotesque tales populated by strange configurations in vivid colors. He could paint the delightful such as “Harlequin Carnival” ; but also the eerie “Head of a Woman” of 1938, a huge and belligerent insect that calls Kafka’s Metamorphosis to mind. Miro’s work is not consistently cheerful and sunny; it is occasionally overclouded and uncannily magical and unpredictable.

What distinguishes Miro from the majority, including Paul Klee, to whom he owed much- is Miro’s ease and originality of invention. He did not need to work through any oppressive visual compulsions in order to arrive at the “second naivety” of the modern artist. Miro, like the artists of aboriginal cultures, drew on a universe of signs and symbols that was essentially inborn.

Nick Burton:When the Spanish Civil War broke in 1936, Miro made "Still Life With Old Shoe" a still life of blackened objects that is often thought of along with Picasso's "Guernica" as a definitive statement against the war. "The Reaper," which was commissioned by her Spanish government that same year, is another work that addresses the conflict, a figure rising up from the ground in defiance. These paintings seem to unlock an inner rage within him in works such as his four "Portraits" of 1938.

…The denizens of Miroland have another characteristic: their parts are removable and interchangeable. Miro wrought stranger miracles than the grafting of human organs. He could replace a kidney with a nose, a belly by a guitar, and a woman’s sexual organs by a trolley conductor’s purse. All his forms, even the smallest , are filled to the brim with life. At the drop of a hat or a falling star, they associate, interpenetrate, copulate, procreate at breath taking speed, and eat or are eaten in complete, rowdy anarchy- an anarchy so profuse and natural that it ends by imposing its own order.

All creatures and things are like a myriad of balloons let loose, or better, a “harlequin carnival” in the words of Miro. A carnival where all is not joy: in the crush, some unfortunate revelers explode, shedding cascades of blood that are immdeiately lapped up by the rest of the crowd. A grimace may mean either pain or pleasure. One never knows whether one is seeing a comedy or a drama. “Anyway, it amounts to the same thing,” says Miro. “Humor is always tragic.”

Constellation N° 5 - Femme à la blonde aisselle coiffant sa chevelure à la lueur des étoiles

Laughter and torture stem from the same intense, exuberant, unalloyed source. It arises in a realm where sensitivity runs high but sentimentality is unknown. Its inhabitants do not have to sleep in order to dream. They belong to that age which is one without pity: the age of childhood.

For Miro’s universe is a cosmic children’s corner- on condition that we specify that it was created, not by adults for children, but by the children themselves. If anything, psychology has taught us that children do not resemble the edulcorated image grownups have of them. They are innocent, but only in that no sense of guilt accompanies their most improper acts; they are pure , but as undiluted alcohol or vitriol is pure. Just because it is so, it is suffused with eroticism and even sadism. Like children , too, Miro shuns the rational. He concludes alliances with creatures and things that share this trait of

living up to the cold standards of the intellect: with dogs, cats, insects, and plants.

Miro shares the child’s disregard for proper proportions and relative importance: details that interest him loom large, while elements to which he is indifferent shrink or disappear altogether. Naturally, the organs by which we satisfy our various senses occupy a preponderant place in his pictures. No shadow falls between the desire and the realization, between dream and reality, between sky and earth, between night and day.

Miro. Portrait II. "In the mid '20s Miro's work was gaining prominence, and in 1923 he had met Henry Miller, French poet Jacques Prevert and Ernest Hemingway, who ended up as the owner of "The Farm." In 1926 Miro was indeed featured in an exhibit by the Galerie Surrealiste that also featured works by Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy, Giorgio DeChirico, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst, among others. Miro began a series of "dream paintings" based on images on the unconscious in 1925, and soon after began experimenting with collage techniques."


Freud’s development of psychoanalysis, and his discovery of the Unconscious, brought about a revolution in art and culture in the early part of the 20th century. It “extended the idea that the world of the individual went beyond the obvious, the visible or the tangible. There was now a world of the subconscious to be considered, a world of dreams, alternate reality, and irrationality. This world became a fabulous mine for many artists.” [external link Art – Colonialism] These themes were explored in the Wikipedia link Surrealist movement developed by the writer external link Andre Breton (see his external link Surrealist Manifesto of 1924), and further developed through artists like external link René Magritte, external link Joan Miró, external link Max Ernst, external link Salvador Dalí, external link Man Ray, and many others.

Miro. Portrait I. 1938. Jonathan Jones:But there's one problem with marginalising Miró. He was a genius. To follow his paintings from his early hyper-intense Catalan landscapes in which the earth teems with manic life to his primordial abstractions that seem to reach to the very bottom of the ancestral seas where life evolved, as if all the universe and its history were buried in the cells of our brains, is to see an artist of fantastic power and raw vision penetrate the remotest corners of human knowing. Any story of modern art that fails to give Miró a very high place is a history that represses truth. Miró was a totally singular soul, the outsider artist who found a home in the New, and his version of modern art is one of the 20th century's most worthwhile legacies.

Peter Schjeldahl:The show ends with a one-off coda: MOMA’s own “Still Life with Old Shoe” (1937), a smoldering composition—in hellishly acidic colors, like lethal inflammations, and coal black—of a shoe, a fork stuck in a shrunken apple, a crust of bread, and a gin bottle wrapped in paper, all on a table that reads as a prairie, in fleeing depth, under an angry sky. “Old Shoe” commenced a return, for Miró, to painting from life, after his experimental adventures. It is commonly regarded as the artist’s response to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, and perhaps to his countryman Picasso’s “Guernica.” As such, it fails, evincing a potent pictorial rhetoric that might have well served a painter who, unlike Miró, had something to say, beyond indicating a bad mood. Miró was an art-for-art’s-sake innocent, first and last. In contrast to Picasso and Matisse, he gives remarkably little sign of experienced life in his works, as lively as they may be. His symbols of sex suggest prepubescent, wild guesses at what adults get so steamed up about. (Miró had one wife, Pilar Juncosa, on whom he seems to have depended heavily; they had one child, Dolores.) “Old Shoe” aside, his art—given, after 1937, to often strong styles in abstract painting and rather weak styles in sculpture, ceramics, and tapestry—generates no human drama beyond the range of a circus act. This was no disadvantage to Miró’s reputation in the days and ways of high modernism, which exalted formal originality as gripping enough, in and of itself. Today, the diminishing returns of innumerable innovations later, many of us have come to rank values of meaning above those of brilliance. So, yes, the fault of Miró’s vitiated appeal is his, though I believe that I speak for a consensus in declaring that he is forgiven.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/artworld/2008/11/10/081110craw_artworld_schjeldahl#ixzz1ADqtNl6U

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