Los Angeles

“Two Sketchbooks of Joan Miró”

Paul Kantor Gallery

The first group of sketches is comprised of a series of cubist-inspired works dating from 1915 to 1917, a period when Miró belonged to the Sant-Lluck Circle in Barcelona. These drawings are lusty, subtly mod­eled and highly formalized. They rep­resent the work of a man searching for form, order, and a relationship with the external world. The torsos are mobile, solid, angular. They reflect an academic attitude in their logic of con­struction. The Old Man is a Poussin­esque Neptune whose limbs are pic­torially dissected in a manner not un­like the way Cézanne might have drawn after the old master. Man with Mous­tache is a kind of Spanish Pere Tan­guy, rendered at a time when Miró was admittedly under the strong influence of Van Gogh (as well as the Fauves).

In 1919, Miró left Spain for Paris, thereafter dividing his time between Barcelona and France. He was in touch with the Picasso circle and the Sur­realists, and was deeply affected by the then-prevalent cubist movement, an influence evident in a later tendency to show simultaneous and disparate views of the same object. In 1925, he participated in the first Surrealist ex­hibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris and, shortly afterward, traveled to Hol­land where he became an ardent ad­mirer of Vermeer. In the early ’thirties, Miró was preoccupied with the medium of collage. He went on to do the decors for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and later executed two large mural commissions. By the time of the Span­ish Civil War, his beloved Spain was closed to him, and he was unable to return there until the end of World War II.

During this decade the content of his work was developing along the “fringes of reality.” That is, he depicted identifiable objects in barely recog­nizable, fragmentary contexts, exploit­ing their literal meanings via cryptic signs or personal symbols. His plastic resources were nourished by his intui­tion and rich, poetic imagination. This penetrating look inward was marked by a new, great breadth of two-dimensional lyricism and graphic wit, ironically as­similated with a peculiar “terribilita.” This inner probing represented a major shift in emphasis from the formal to the instinctual, from the conscious to the unconscious, from a conceptual to a perceptual approach. Klee, Kandinsky, Picasso, Cubism, the Surrealists, all wielded influences at their times; but by the middle ’thirties, Miró had inte­grated these special experiences into a fluent and personal language that enabled him to throw prudence, intel­lect and tradition “to the winds, nothing held back.”

It is in the later series of pencil drawings at Kantor’s Gallery, executed in 1937 at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, that this total in­tegration, this harmony with his own background (and with nature) is revealed. “For the artist, communication with nature remains the most essential condition. The artist is human; himself nature; part of nature within natural space,” wrote Paul Klee in 1923. Miró learned this profound lesson well. In the 1937 drawings, he and the figures are one; he is his subject, having drawn the figures by allowing his em­pathic hand to follow his feelings about the forms he was looking at. In this broad sense, he was drawing by feel, rather than simply rendering the im­ages which appeared on the retina of his eye, then distorting them intel­lectually according to the canons of previous art.

With a line as sensitive and meaning­ful as Ingres’, he describes every flex­ing limb with undulating eroticism; his forms are bio-morphic; his awareness of anatomy is profound; and his seem­ingly extreme dislocations are the re­sult of a scrutinizing consciousness which simplifies the essence of a ges­ture or a movement with razor-sharp, penetrating clarity. He distributes the weight of his figures as it might be dis­tributed if we could look like we feel at a given moment. Miró perceives the special character of a particular knee, breast, nose or arm with such unmis­takable accuracy and insight, that often they initially appear to be comical, somewhat in the same way that photo­graphs of ourselves occasionally do when we are surprised to discover and recognize ourselves in them.

In these studies, Miró has created a timeless album of highly inventive, transcendental anagrams of the human frame which, thanks to the thorough­ness of his keenly observed, awesome findings, is an amalgam of the frail, vulnerable, soft, warm, physicalness of the human body.

––Arthur Secunda