An exhibition of work by the internationally renowned Catalan artist Joan Miró (1893-1983) is currently on show in Ibiza, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACE) in Dalt Vila. Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893, and is considered to be one of the greatest Surrealist artists, where the subconscious takes central stage.
Miró went to art school in Barcelona, but was never accomplished at drawing, and as a result became more interested in pure colour and structure rather than representation. Feeling stifled in Barcelona, he moved to Paris in 1919, where he quickly got to know many of the leading figures of the avant-garde movements of the time, including Picasso, but in particular the Surrealists, who hugely influenced his work. Exhibition curator Enrique Juncosa says of his work at this time, “Miró’s images move away from their earlier painstakingly detailed realism to a new signic language that tends towards abstraction and indicates an internalisation of the visible”. He spent much of the 1920s moving between Paris, the family’s rural summer home in Mont-Roig in Catalonia for the summer, with periods in Barcelona when he ran out of money. In 1929 he married Pilar Juncosa who came from a cultured Mallorcan family and in 1931 their only child Dolors was born. It was during the 1930s that Miró’s fame began to spread. He found an American agent Pierre Matisse (son of the artist), and had 20 exhibitions of his work in the USA and Europe. However in 1936 with the start of the Spanish Civil War he left Spain, returning to Paris and then Normandy, but left France with the onset of the Nazi occupation for Mallorca in 1940 (his mother was also from Mallorca). In 1942 he returned to Barcelona and used this as his base, frequently spending summers in Mont-Roig, and travelling to New York, Paris and other European cities to exhibit his work.
In 1954 Miró and his family moved permanently to Palma de Mallorca. A few years later he started working in a new studio commissioned from his friend the Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert, and from 1959 acquired additional buildings nearby. The new studio in Mallorca gave Miró the physical space to display and re-evaluate much of his recent work, destroying some of it, and initially concentrate more on ceramics, etching and lithography. This self-evaluation combined with the new, purpose-designed and spacious studio, must have had a positive effect on his new work. Subsequently, the many paintings Miró produced during the 60s reveal renewed strength and expressivity, probably as a result of his knowledge of American Abstract Expressionism (through his regular visits to New York) and of Eastern Art and calligraphy (he also visited Japan several times in the 70s). And he began to work on larger pieces and sculptures.
It is this period that the exhibition in Ibiza focuses on. Entitled ‘The Light of the Night’ (La Luz de la Noche), the exhibition includes twenty-five paintings, fourteen bronze sculptures and a tapestry all created towards the end of his life between 1962 and 1979. As a mature artist, Miró was confident in his own abilities and still very prolific. The paintings are full of characters, mainly of women, heads, human figures and birds, in spaces in which the colour black predominates, with all its nocturnal connotations. Many of them demonstrate his continued desire to paint on unconventional materials, such as plastic, zinc, sheets of fabric used for agricultural purposes (such as collecting almonds), sheets of cardboard, bits of wood and found objects, and even on paintings that he had found in street markets.
Miró started to produce more sculptures from the late 50s, once he had the space in Palma to work in. Many of them explore the evocative power of objects. He collected traditional handicraft and found objects, including whistles from Mallorca in the shape of white figurines, toys, gourds, stones, interestingly shaped tree trunks, animal horns, wicker baskets and rudders. Some of the sculptures in the exhibition are juxtapositions of such assorted objects, which when cast in bronze, become unified into wholes, becoming surreal totems or figures.
It is not only a coup for the island, but also entirely appropriate that Miró finally has his first exhibition in Ibiza. He is known to have visited Ibiza on at least three occasions, between 1946 and 1970, and was deeply proud of his Catalan roots, believing in freedom and democracy. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see some of Miró’s late work in Ibiza, much of which has not been exhibited in public before.
There is a comprehensive website to accompany the exhibition, which goes to Menorca and Mallorca afterwards, so if you can’t see it in person you can at least get a taste of it online now.
An extensive catalogue has also been produced which is on sale in the museum, and features all the works on show as well as essays about Miró, giving insights into his life, inspiration and work (written in English as well as Catalan, Spanish and German).
The exhibition is free of charge and is open every day (except Mondays) until August 15th. For location and opening hours see their website.