Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Miro at the Tate Modern

On Sunday I took the day off work (shock!) and went into town to see the Miro exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Joan Miro was one of the mold breakers of the 20th Century, one of those artists that is known simply by his surname, always eye catching and dramatic. The exhibition covered his evolution from naive-realism, to surrealism, to abstraction and then finally conceptual art.

But it was strangely uninspiring to see room after room of his paintings. All too often they were too similar, variations on a small set of themes, and often too insular.

One phase for example was in reaction to the Spanish Civil War, and involved stick figures with red hats - the hat apparently a crucial political statement of solidarity with Catalan peasants. That's a message that might have meant something in 1930s Barcelona, but is less universal and hence powerful than (say) Picasso's Guernica.

So after a room full of stick men with red hats that felt like more than enough.

The more complex pictures were more interesting, like the Constellation series as in this example:
This surely is great art, but presenting nine of them together there was the opposite problem: each scene is completely filled with abstract symbols and the audio guide described with some of them. But to go into all of them for all of the pictures in the Constellation room would take all day: it was overload, and too often the rewards, the message, insufficient.

Later on Miro ended up experimenting with burning his own pictures and sculptures of found objects, and it was hard to appreciate either that much.

My favourite was the triptic Blue I, II, and III, one of which is shown above. Massive canvases, their immersive experience bring the skies and water's of the Mediterranean into the heart of London. Without the overload of Constellation series or narrow message of the Catalan peasant's hat it's simplicity paradoxically had a greater impact.

Maybe that says something about our overloaded times - or my desire at this point for a cappuccino.

In the end my impression was that Miro's pictures individually have an impact as they show his differentness to other artists, but that together they show the lack of variety between his paintings.

With Miro, it really is the case that less is more.

Updated: for an entertaining take on the exhibition, Brian Sewell's review is here


cocktail of fashion said...

It's great to read your views about the Miro exhibition. I am going to see it tomorrow and I hope I will appreciate it enough to give some feedback.

JP said...

Thanks for the feedback and hope you enjoy the exhibition - it's definitely worth a visit.

So what did you think?