Miro – man who branded a nation
Long ranging retrospectives give you a trip through an artist’s life in an hour or two. It cuts to the bone by shaving off the peaks of achievement and presenting them in some sort of chronological and/or thematic order. It also throws to one side all the prattle-prattle, gossip and personal stuff. Art history is the history of the work, not the lives of artists. That’s why Tracy Emin’s such a bore and Miro's such a genius.
I’m not an outright fan of surrealism in painting and sculpture, as I’m not sure that two dimensional work often captures the restlessness of dreams, the unconsciousness or consciousness itself. I always feel as though surrealist signs and objects are like lapel badges trying to represent complex concepts.
However, Miro strikes gold (or blue) in later life when he produces his simple blue, yellow, white, and red palette pieces. Here we have beautiful images stripped of the halfway house imagery of the early work (peasant faces, guitars etc) and the awful, amateurishness of the burnt canvases. This is a man in search of a palette. The copper and masonite works, and constellation works, are the big steps on the way to his masterpieces and by far the best rooms in this large show leading up to the big Blues in Room 10.
Where the show fails is in missing the point that Miro was an artist who actually branded a nation. The progenitor was his postage stamp image shown in Room 5. But where is his famous ‘espagna’ image in red, black and yellow? This symbol that became the symbol of modern , post-Franco Spain. The Barcelona Olympic symbol was also Miro inspired. To miss this point is to miss his major achievement. Miro became Spain and Spain Miro.