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The Appeal of the Head Onion Peel

IN THE LATE ’70s I had a job a few blocks from the Modern, and I would go there often during my lunch hour. I was drawn more and more to Miró’s The Birth of the World, 1925, which was in the permanent collection. It spoke directly to problems I was encountering in my own painting, and it became my point of access to his work.

The position of The Birth of the World in the artist’s growth becomes much clearer in this exhibition. I take the title at face value, and I think the genesis to which it refers is both cosmic and personal. Beginning around 1924 Miró gradually cut himself free from most of the things that had previously given painting its “look.” From our present cultural perspective we have trouble really feeling the radicality and depth of some early Modernism, which can look fussy and illustrational to us. But it’s important to see how radical this work was—nothing like it had

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