Thursday, 26 May 2011

Miro at Tate Modern

This is a front-loaded exhibition. The best work culminates in the Constellation pictures of gallery 7 (of 12). From this point on Miro's visionary pieces, including the two rooms of triptychs have crossed over into an esoteric aesthetic and cannot be reached. The burnt and punctured canvases of the penultimate room are the collateral issue of a blinkered artistic intellect - the firework canvases of the end of Miro's life, co-inciding with the end of Franco's Spain press against the canvas as if Miro had perform-painted them from the other, noumenal side.

The change is rapid though, and up to and including the Constellation canvases there is twinkling if not dazzling art beckoning us. It's as if he has a foot already on one of his escape ladders, a recurring figure that is, pragmatically, futile yet optimistic. Personally I struggled with many of the Constellations failing to see the layers either at once or separately, yet I appreciated that they were there. They are delicately rendered, everything hinging on the confident, unambiguous drawn line. I saw some Klee in them (whom I also fail to appreciate on a direct aesthetic level) and some composite, allegorical Picasso, like the Three Dancers (1925).

On my second visit - there's a lot to take in in this exhibition and I needed two - the Barcelona series of political lithographs present themselves as a high point at any stage of Miro's career. The monochrome allows the line and invention to breathe more readily than the two-plane painting of the Constellations. The invention is endless and sharply witty, entertaining and subversive even before the political subtext is known.

Beside these, my favourite pieces in the exhibition is the surreal series known as the animal landscapes. The animals of the title are set on a simple landscape often looking out to the sky, in the same direction that the ubiquitous escape ladder reaches towards. The Dog Barking at the Moon and the Landscape with Rooster also have a fixed subject for their attention, though its profile is low, a wisp of cloud or some figure, llike a tear in the firmament. The characters are familiar from the famous Farm (1921-2) of a previous room but with exploded characteristics, as if in caricature.

The works are clearly pieces rendered by a master of technique with an equally sharp eye for style. Yet even amongst the large collected lithographs, created at that turning point for Miro, 1940-44 there is the restraint echoed in the man himself (by all accounts impeccably mannered and presented). I longed for more expression, so that I might feel as much as I admired.

1 comment:

Kodanshi said...

My favourites actually were the Triptychs, especially Hope of a Man Condemned to Death. But I loved the Barcelona series too and, especially, the Constellations. I also enjoyed his sculpture called Ladder of the Escaping Eye. I think he’s a brilliant and visionary artist.