LOS ANGELES, CA.- Surrealism had an enormous impact on the art world following its beginnings in France ca. 1924, directly influencing artists as diverse as Motherwell and Picasso. Only a relatively small number of artists remained anchored in this movement after World War II. Among the most prominent of these was Joan Miró whose view and practice of art were and remain revolutionary.
Surrealism was concerned with undermining our preconceived notions of both art and reality at large. This is evident in such iconic surrealist images as Dalis ubiquitous clock draped over a tree limb which called into question the reality of mathematically measured time, and Magrittes painting of a pipe (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) emblazoned with the phrase, Ceci n'est pas une pipe - This is not a pipe, which indeed it is not, but rather a picture of a pipe.
Mirós works frequently invoke the mythic, and his vocabulary has a pictographic quality not unlike images of the earth and sky painted by tribal societies all over the world since time immemorial. Such pictographs, as frequently seen in petroglyphs, sometimes developed into sophisticated systems of writing, as in the case of the first Chinese characters which are pictograms. Examples of pictographic and calligraphic images are seen throughout the works in this show. There is also an innocence about the simplicity of Miros palette that evokes the sense of childlike wonder adults can still feel gazing up at a clear night sky. By conjuring this magical, poetic state of awe and wonderment, Miro undermines the mundane state of mind by which we all too frequently limit our world view.
The possibility of seeing beyond the mundane is implied by La Brahmane, the lead image for this show. Being the foremost socio-economic class in traditional Indian society, Brahmins received a classical education which included training in philosophy and science. Hindu philosophy and science holds that the essence of reality is prana, the metaphysical energy invisible to all but the initiated and naturally adept, thus again Miró delimits conventional Western notions of reality.
An important part of this exhibition is the display of illustrated books which are Mirós interpretations of works of poetry. These are not bound books but rather loose leaf portfolios of prints and sheets of letterpress text. (The prints in these books can be framed as one would frame any stand-alone print while retaining the rest of the book in its portfolio.) The complete catalogue of Mirós works in this genre, meticulously compiled by the Swiss scholar and publisher Patrick Cramer, a close associate of Leslie Sacks, records 262 books, albums and catalogues. These books with their beautiful hand printed images reflect not only the aforementioned associations with poetry, mythology, pictographs and calligraphy but also the rich European heritage of illuminated manuscripts.