PRINT January 1994

Teen Idol

I OWE MY LOVE OF Modern art to Miró above any other artist. Thinking about him today, I’m whisked back to the moment in my adolescence when it seemed to me that his work basically existed to lead me away from teenage angst and toward a belief in the human spirit. It still astonishes me that to a frustrated small-town kid for whom the hills of Catalonia might as well have been as distant as the moon, Miró equaled Art.

Today, Miró’s centenary exhibition at MoMA marks the first time I’ve encountered so many Modern masterpieces as old friends. But I’m also startled at the extraordinary amount of invention packed into every inch of his early paintings—those from 1918 to 1923. To me, the exhibition suggests that no artist of Miró’s time came as close as he did to shunning the theoretical side of art altogether. It wasn’t that he lacked the ability to translate his goals into words; he simply preferred to concentrate on describing the parameters of human consciousness by inventing images. As opposed to the more worldly, sophisticated art of Picasso, Miró’s work is grounded in the view that painting is a universal language, consistent whether we are considering the cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira or the surface extravagances of Post-Impressionism. It seems inconceivable that an artist could hold such a viewpoint today.

Once embarked on his journey, however, Miró never looked back. In showing the growth of his psychic territory from the realm of private myths to an explosion of symbols of creativity, the MoMA show may teach us that if one is to sustain seventy years of uninterrupted creativity, one is more or less committed to being a teenager all one’s life.

Dan Cameron is a writer who lives in New York