Surrealist Ceramics: Joan Miró

Raoul Ubac, "Untitled (Variation of Les vases communicants)," 1937, photograph/collotype

When I was at the Vancouver Art Gallery‘s Surrealist exhibition yesterday, I noticed the sculptures. Most were Giacometti’s …some quite large. Because many Surrealists were affected and inspired by aboriginal art, there is much made of wood, too. Aboriginal masks, bowls, carvings. Noticeably missing was anything made of clay, however. There were pieces that alluded to it, such as this photograph-collotype by Belgian Raoul Ubac. “Untitled (Variation of Les vases communicants),” 1937, is a lovely piece and one of my favorites from the show. There was also an untitled collage by Max Ernst which showed big urns on the right hand side of the work. When I think of Dali’s “Lobster Telephone” and the other objects shown, it makes me wonder why there were no ceramic pieces among them. It seems to me to be the perfect medium for creating fantastical, dream-like objects. I did a little looking around and came across references to a period of time in Joan Miró’s [ʒuˈam  miˈɾo] life when he made ceramics with his friend, Josep Llorens Artigas. They worked in clay in the 1940s and 50s producing  work that was exhibited in 1956 in a show at the Gallerie Maeght in Paris. “Terres De Grand Feu” had 43 pieces. The next year, Miró was  commissioned to make two ceramic murals, “Wall of the Sun” and “Wall of the Moon,” which were installed in 1958 on the UNESCO building in Paris. He later created a similar mural for Harvard University, in the United States, for the Maeght Foundation, in Paris, and at the  Barcelona airport, in Spain. Here is an article published in 1956 in the Harvard Crimson about Miró. After his ceramic period, he cast a number of his small ceramic pieces in bronze, which became his sculpture medium after that. Today, in an incredible stroke of luck, case of synchronicity, what have you, I’ve learned that an exhibition of Miró’s work is taking place until the end of July in Paris in the Musee Maillol. Here’s more information from the Fondation Maeght. It is the first time his ceramic work has been shown for 40 years. The video below shows Ms. Maeght discussing Miró’s work. It’s fantastic!

About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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