As a leader of the Dada and Surrealist movements in the 1920s and 30s, Joan Miró would continue to impart aleatory elements into his late oeuvre, most compellingly in his monumental sculpture of the 1960s. Inherent to Surrealist and Dada practice were the use and recontextualization of found objects, perhaps made most famous by Marcel Duchamp (see fig. 1). Miró seized upon such groundbreaking tenets from his earlier days in the rendering of his various Personnages.
While the artist had worked with three-dimensional forms on occasion in his early career, it was not until the 1960s that Miró began working consistently in bronze, translating the happenstance amalgams of his early collage work (see fig. 2) into sculptural forms. His polychrome figures from 1967 and 1968 (see fig. 3) incorporate commonplace objects and strong primary colors which endow the works with “an irrationality as total objects… with strongly equivocal, poetic presence" (M. Rowell, Miró, New York, 1970, p. 25). Such an act of creating beauty and investing new life into the inanimate had overtly divine connotations, made grander when executed on a large scale.
Miró’s efforts—the chance collecting, ordering and assembling of found objects—unleashed the spiritual potential of the multiple components, imbuing the finished work with a numinous force beyond that of the singular objects or even that the artist himself. Prior to the advent of such sculptures, Catalan writer and art critic Sebastià Gasch had noticed a similar effect in the artist’s painting, stating that “Miró first discovers spiritual splendour in a real thing. He then appropriates this thing, fixes it in his mind, work on it, polishes it, deforms it, transfigures it, so as to incorporate it in his own works, all of it resplendent with that spirit that hides behind material appearances, and that the artist has presented, or rather has intuited, concealed with in the material things before starting his work" (quoted in Joan Miró: Sculpture (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 12).
Writings in Miró’s notebooks from 1940-42 seem to prefigure the daring sculptures which the artist would undertake decades later: “It is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional… Use things found by divine chance: bits of metal stone, etc., the way I use schematic signs drawn at random on the paper or on accident… that is the only thing—this magic spark—that counts in art…” (ibid, p. 11).
The quintessential encapsulation of Miró’s oeuvre, Personnage stands as a powerful expression of the artist’s late work and "living monsters." This playful yet impressive form was inspired by the mainstays of his studios; a brilliant red butcher block serves as the fulcrum of the figure, with its legs recalling the wooden stools documented in his studios over the years (see fig. 4). The yellow shape of the face comes from a lid of a wheat container, adorned with details of green, blue and red to render a figurative visage. A sprightly red farm implement emanates from the character’s head, perhaps signifying a jaunty hairstyle or errant appendage.
In the conception of these sculptures, Miró was known to lay out the various familiar items on the floor, sketching and rearranging them until achieving a satisfying composition. With the repurposing of utilitarian objects like tools and utensils, Miró's late assemblages are some of his most inventive works of art, finding visual resonance in contemporary sculpture like that of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (see fig. 5).
Jacques Dupin explained Miró's approach to creating his sculptures: "These works began with Miró slipping out of his studio, unseen, only to return with an impromptu harvest of objects, his bounty, without value or use, but susceptible, in his view, of combinations and surprising metamorphoses. All of these objects had been abandoned, thrown away or forgotten by nature and man alike, and Miró recognized them as his own.... For Miró, all paths were strewn with such marvelous nothings, all of life's refuse remained alive" (J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2004, p. 374).
The present work was cast by the T. Clementi Foundry in Meudon in an edition of six. Several examples are held in public collections including the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona and the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
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