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Guggenheim Bilbao presents Joan Miró: Absolute Reality. Paris, 1920–1945

February 10–May 28, 2023

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Joan Miró: Absolute Reality. Paris, 1920–1945, from February 10 to May 28, 2023.

Joan Miró: Absolute Reality is on display at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Paris, 1920-1945, an exhibition that examines one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant artists’ career between 1920 and 1945. The date of his first trip to Paris, a key city in his life and work, marks the beginning of this fundamental period in Miró’s oeuvre, and it concludes with the year when Miró, after producing his Constellations (1940-41) and then hardly painting at all for some years, created a great series of works on white backgrounds that consolidated his language of signs floating on ambiguous grounds.

The show spans 25 years of activity, and there is a steady flow of new ideas ranging from his original magic realism to his language of constellated signals. Throughout this progression, it becomes obvious that prehistoric art, such as rock paintings, petroglyphs, and statuettes, piqued Miró’s interest, a fascination corroborated by his journals, in which he suggests returning to the dawn of art in order to reclaim its original spiritual sense.

Joan Miró’s (b. 1893 Barcelona; d. 1983 Palma) work is recognized for its stylistic innovations produced within the context of the early avant-garde movements, particularly Dadaism and Surrealism, and he is also regarded as a predecessor of Abstract Expressionism. Miró was also a spiritually minded artist who was attracted by visions and dreams. Recently, emphasis has been brought to the political aspects of his work, emphasizing his staunch opposition to Franco’s tyranny and admiration for the period’s Catalan nationalism. Some of his ideas, such as his statement of the “assassination of painting” in the late 1920s, remain intriguing and allude to an attitude that foreshadowed Conceptual Art. Forty years after his death, in short, his oeuvre still interests and fascinates us while remaining just as enigmatic as ever.

Miró’s work is a model mythopoetic endeavour, a never-ending transformation of real experience into art. As vehemently as he opposed traditional realism, Miró also rejected pure abstraction, claiming that all of the signs he painted on his paintings corresponded to something substantial and anchored in a profound reality that is part of reality itself. This concept is related to a term by poet and Surrealist movement leader André Breton, who spoke of a new absolute reality in which the inner worlds of artists and poets were merged into the outward world. Yet, Miró’s favorite artist, Paul Klee, described his own work as “abstract but with memories,” implying that in art, the real is the real altered by memory. In statements made to Cahiers d’Art in 1939, Miró affirmed: “If we don’t try to discover the religious essence or the magical sense of things, we shall do no more than add new causes of degradation to those already surrounding people today.”