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Miró at SAM

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), February 15, 1966/April 3-8, 1973, Joan Miró

Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), February 15, 1966/April 3-8, 1973, Joan Miró

The latest exhibition at the Seattle Art MuseumMiró: The Experience of Seeing—has just opened. It is organized jointly by the Seattle Art Museum and Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

Here is the description of it by Chiyo Ishikawa and Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s curators of European painting and of modern and contemporary art:

This exhibition, drawn entirely from the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, offers a fresh assessment of the late period in Miró’s work—a body of work that audiences in the United States have not had the opportunity to fully appreciate. The exhibition brings together over 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures made in the period between 1963 and 1983 that testify to the artist’s ingenuity and inventiveness to the very end of his life. Bold and colorful paintings employing his personal visual language alternate with near-abstract compositions. Although Miró had experimented with sculpture in earlier periods, it is only in the late years that painting and sculpture stand in direct dialogue with each other—a principal feature of this exhibition.

The paintings and sculptures in the exhibition plumb the process of making art, part of Miró’s concern since his earliest works. In his quest to transcend easel painting, Miró expanded pictorial space across vast canvas fields, using an increasingly simplified language to turn accidental or fortuitous motifs into calligraphic signs. In his sculpture, the inspiration of found objects is more overt, linking the work to his Surrealist explorations of the 1920s as well as the sculptural inventions of his contemporary, Pablo Picasso. Miró also employs many of the same forms and signs in his sculpture, as in his paintings, creating a synergy between the two bodies of work. His work during these mature years represents a personal language where painting and sculpture are equally valued.

We went to the opening celebration on Tuesday evening. Normally we arrive at these events just in time for the program of talks, then eat and see the art in one order or the other. This time we made it a point to arrive early so that we could see not just the Miró but also another show that would close today: Robert Davidson: Abstract Impulse.

Here’s the description of the Davidson show by Barbara Brotherton, the curator of Native American Art:

In partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian, NY, SAM is proud to organize the first major U.S. exhibition of the Haida artist, Robert Davidson.

Robert Davidson has been a pivotal figure in the Northwest Coast Native art renaissance since 1969, when he erected the first totem pole in his ancestral Massett village since the 1880s. For over 40 years he has mastered Haida art traditions by studying the great works of his great-grandfather Charles Edenshaw and others. More recently, Davidson has interjected his own interpretation of the old forms with forays into abstraction, explored in boldly minimalistic easel paintings, graphic works and sculpture, where images are pared to essential lines, elemental shapes and strong colors.

The exhibition will feature 45 paintings, sculptures and prints created since 2005, as well as key images from earlier in his career that show Davidson’s evolution toward an elemental language of form.

We’re sure glad we didn’t miss the show, but we wish we would have been able to make a return visit. You can get a sense of it by looking at the photos accompanying John Seed’s artist interview in the Huffington Post. Here’s one:

Bird In The Air, Acrylic on canvas, 40" x 60"

Bird In The Air, Acrylic on canvas, 40″ x 60″

And another:

There is Light In Darkness, Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 60"

There is Light In Darkness, Acrylic on canvas, 30″ x 60″

On leaving the exhibition, we headed up a floor to get a preview of the Miró. We figured seeing some of the works ahead of time might make for more informed listening during the program. We were enjoying our viewing when we ran into someone I know who hinted that we might find the program less informative than usual. he would turn out to be correct.

With program time drawing near, we headed back down with him and caught the tail end of the pre-program reception, at which locally based Spanish guitarist Andre Feriante performed while people mingled and drank. We stopped only briefly before heading into the auditorium.

SAM director Kim Rorschach opened with the usual greetings and thank yous, then brought up João Fernandes, the Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, who gave us some background on the show. Carmen Fernández Aparicio, the Chief Curator of Sculpture at the museum and featured speaker, followed.

Ms Aparicio told us in perfectly clear English that she was sorry she couldn’t make her remarks in English, then switched to Spanish, with two women at microphones on the side taking turns translating. This got off to a slow start, first because we couldn’t hear Ms Aparicio (not that it mattered if we wanted the English only), then because the translators couldn’t hear her, and at some points later because the translators appeared to struggle in search of the most effective way to convey her thoughts. The result was that her ideas didn’t come through all that well, and no one seemed unhappy when the remarks came to an end. Kim came back up to release us.

Back in the main entry, a Spanish-themed buffet was provided by SAM’s usual caterer, the in-building restaurant Taste. It was a good one. A platter of cured meats and cheeses, a dish of grilled, bite-sized potato chunks, a tray of raw vegetables, flatbread, some green dipping sauce, a vegetarian paella, and chicken breast slices with an orange sauce. In addition to the usual passed drinks—red and white wine, water—there were glasses of Sangria. And for entertainment we had music by New Age Flamenco. There was also a flamenco dance performance, but we were eating with our vision blocked through most of it, moving up to see it only as it ended. The program card indicates that this was offered by Deseo Carmin and Marisela Fleites.

After listening to a couple of post-meal songs, we decided to head home. The Miró exhibition deserves a much closer look, which we will give when we return for a curator tour. I’ll say more about the exhibition then.

Categories: Art, Museums
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