In his Working Notes, 1941-1942, Miró anticipated his future engagement with sculpture, writing, "when sculpting, I start from the objects I collect, just as I make use of stains on paper and imperfections in canvas...I make a cast of these objects and work on it like [Julio] González does until the object as such no longer exists but becomes a sculpture, but not like Picasso—do it like a collage of various elements" (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 175). His words prophetically map out the trajectory of his sculpture from the 1950s, when he began to fill his new large studio in Palma with all sorts of found objects, to the final series of bronzes he executed during the early 1980s.
The late bronze sculptures reflect retrospectively on Miró's oeuvre, invoking both the playful, risk-taking attitude he took during the Surrealist 1930s and the grand, totemic monumentality of his work during the later post-war period. The affinities between the anti-aestheticism of the Surrealist period, when Miró called for the "assassination of painting," led directly to his first reliefs, and the same collage principles governing these and subsequent works again came into play more than forty years later in the present sculpture, Personnage et oiseau. Miró explained in 1970 that his sculpture "has to do with the unlikely marriage of recognizable forms" (quoted in D. Swanson, "The Artist's Comments," Miró Sculptures, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1971, n.p.). Miró has created in the present work a noticeably phallic male personage out of a spherical pipe-fitting and a triangular wooden lattice, juxtaposing its symmetrical geometry with the freer and more whimsical form of the bird, which he fashioned from a pair of chair legs and fragments of tree bark. Jacques Dupin has written:
"The work of assembly, on the floor, is rough and irreverent. Miró, with artless audacity, takes very little trouble to restrain the forms, inflect the lines, modify the volumes or specify the dimensions. He is seeking, above all, to release the secret structure of the encounter he has provoked, to find exactly the right proportion and to further free the forces combined. It is a question of the energy circulating and harmonizing the incongruities, without lessening the violence, the humour or the pleasure of the confrontation" (Miró as Sculptor, Barcelona, 1976, pp. 12-14).
The poetics of these late sculptures owe much to the tension between the happenstance of the sundry found objects Miró has assembled and their final perpetuation in cast bronze. While even the most mundane, worthless object qualified in his view as "sculpture," Miró was careful to distinguish his work from that of other contemporary sculptors, whose welding and relief constructions had the appearance for him of rarified luxury objects. For Miró, the revelation of sculpture lay not within himself but in the diversity and integrity of his humble components, culled from the detritus of life and pieced together to create, in his words, "a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters" (M. Rowell, ed., op. cit., p. 175). Indeed, when Miró revisited the elements of Personnage et oiseau in 1982, he had them cast on a truly monstrous scale, measuring 55 feet tall (E.F. Miró and P.O. Chapel, no. 394); this painted bronze and stainless steel sculpture today stands in front of the Chase Tower in Houston.
(fig. 1) The artist working in his studio. BARCODE: nyrpajgr_fig