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Miró at SAM

carl, Scott, and I went to the Miró exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum on Saturday. I'd previously seen some of Miró's artwork (along with Picasso and Dalí's) at an exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum in what the internet tells me was 1996. I seem to recall that I looked at some more of his painting online at that time, although that would have been early days of internet access for me. I've almost certainly seen some of his artwork in European museums as well.

The work in this exhibit is all from late in Miró's career (ranging from 1963 to 1981, which was two years before his death), and I didn't find the paintings as interesting as his earlier work, although there were at least two or three that I liked a lot. However, the one that was in many was the most interesting was one that from close up looked like the ugliest kind of puke green and orange cheap motel drapes or bed covering. Just really awful looking, to my eyes. Scott and I were kind of laughing about it, but then we noticed that when you looked at it from across the gallery, it actually looked a lot better. The colors blended better and didn't look quite so garish and ghastly. The way things were set up, we could actually still see the painting through two doorways when we were two galleries away, and it looked really great from that distance. It doesn't seem likely that Miró actually planned it that way, but he managed to create something that looked better and better the further away you got from it.

Perhaps more eye-opening than the paintings were the sculptures. Miró worked with found materials and then created wax molds and cast the sculpture in bronze. First of all, I was fascinated by how much the bronze castings looked like the original materials, whether it was a tree stump or a broken ceramic cup. The textures looked very real, and it took me a while to figure out that I was looking at bronze. The other interesting thing about the sculptures was the way he could find human figures or faces in the most incongruous assemblages of found items. Sometimes in the paintings I felt that he was teasing us by calling the utterly abstract swooshes and splotches a Woman, or a Figure, or a Landscape. But in the sculptures I could usually see them as faces or bodies, even if very distorted ones. There's definitely a playful sense of humor there as well, in the way that crazy things like doll parts could become a nose or a mouth.

Anyway, not as great a show as that Picasso, Miró, Dalí show of yesteryear, but definitely worth a view. As always, it was interesting to tour through some of the other galleries as well. One of SAM's new acquisitions was a beautiful painting by the American artist Kehinde Wiley called Anthony of Padua. The surface is so smooth it looks like a print, although the label says it's oil on canvas. I loved the parody of aristocratic/religious portraiture, and I loved the way the ornate background bleeds into the foreground. A really beautiful painting.

Miró, Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso)


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