Artist as activist: UK's Tate Modern to show Miro

Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:07am EST
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By Anna Yukhananov

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Civil war was raging in Spain, bombs were exploding in Guernica, and Spanish artist Joan Miro, stranded in Paris, was painting "Still Life with Old Shoe," where psychedelic colors spilled into everyday objects to create a scene of nightmare.

Miro's engagement with, and sometimes savage reaction to, the world around him underpins Tate Modern's "Joan Miro: The Ladder of Escape," the first major exhibition of his work in London in almost 50 years.

The title of the exhibition, which opens in April 2011, is borrowed from Miro himself: the Ladder of Escape reappears in paintings and sculptures throughout his life as a ladder standing straight up and leading into the sky.

"We've chosen the Ladder of Escape in our title because ... it shows this ambiguity, the sense of being rooted in the world but trying to escape into something more ethereal," said Matthew Gale, a curator at the museum.

"At certain moments, Miro is really engaged with political ideas. And at other times, he is seeking to escape from that reality."

In his daily life, Miro was a far cry from the tortured, militant artist: born in Barcelona, he loved the insects and plants of the Catalonian countryside, and spent hours studying maps of the stars.

He is known for the brightly colored canvases with simple black lines that he painted in the 1950s and 1960s, which often appeal to children.

But Miro's strong sense of Catalan identity was under attack from General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain as a centralized dictatorship for almost 40 years and sought to quash all remnants of Catalan separatism.   Continued...