assassinating painting


“I want to assassinate painting,” Joan Miró is reported to have said, in 1927. Four years later, the Catalan modern master elaborated, in an interview: “I intend to destroy, destroy everything that exists in painting. I have utter contempt for painting.” (He is quoted, along similar lines, as having put the Cubists on notice: “I will break their guitar.”) Brave words, for a painter. Miró, who first came to Paris in 1920, when he was twenty-six, plainly enjoyed indulging in the slash-and-burn attitudinizing of the avant-garde, despite being essentially a plain man, of equable temperament. He had reason to think that he meant it, and not just because he was of the generation that, in the wake of the high-minded slaughter of the First World War, was disgusted with European civilization. Fustian brought out the best in him. An eventful show now at the Museum of Modern Art, “Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937,” explores dizzyingly rapid-fire, experimental developments in the artist’s work, influenced by Dadaism, Surrealism, and the savage materialism of the writer Georges Bataille. (In no other period was the ingenuously intuitive Miró so receptive to intellectual impetus.) With cultivated “automatist” spontaneity, he worked on raw canvas, copper, and the recently invented Masonite; employed gross materials, including sand and tar; made thoroughly abstract pictures; and hatched funky varieties of collage and assemblage, whose influence would extend to Robert Rauschenberg. It’s not his fault—or is it?—that the show leaves an impression of being distant and dated, and strangely tame.

more from The New Yorker here.