Miró found his bearings as a sculptor in the solitary years of the Second World War, embracing the culture of peasant craft in rural Catalunya and Mallorca as a source for a new, vitalist sculpture rooted in the world of objects. In notebooks from this time, Miró anticipated a new engagement with sculpture, writing, "When sculpting, start from the objects I collect, just as I make use of the stains on paper and imperfections in a canvas--do this here in the country in a way that is really alive, in touch with the elements of nature... do it like a collage of various elements... Use things found by divine chance: bits of metal, stone, etc., the way I use schematic signs drawn at random on the paper or an accident... that is the only thing--this magic spark--that counts in art" (in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 175 and 191). His words suggestively map out the trajectory of his sculpture from the 1950s, when all signs pointed to his intensified pursuit of the sculptural object to the poetic final series of bronzes cast in the 1980s.
The late bronze sculptures reflect retrospectively on Miró's oeuvre, invoking both the playful risk-taking attitude of the Surrealist 1930s and the totemic monumentality more characteristic of work from the later 1960s and early 1970s. The affinities between the anti-aestheticism of the Surrealist period, when Miró's call for the "murder of painting" led directly to his first reliefs, and the collage principles governing the later work are sensitively reflected in Tête 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.). In Tête et oiseau, the juxtaposition of the coarse features of the bird with the smooth, grotesquely misshapen and strangely phallic head deliberately induces sensations of incongruity and shock. "The innate identity of the found objects composing the sculpture [is] transformed," William Jeffett notes. "Reclaimed as living beings" and set in imaginative dialogue with each other, these objects take their place within Miró's personal history of forms, each variation provoking and revising the original image (in Joan Miró: Sculpture, exh. cat., The South Bank Centre, London, 1989, pp. 8-9). The consistency of Miró's imagery is as remarkable as the variety of objects he employs to create it; compare, for instance, the different scales of Head and bird, 1967 (fig. 1) and Bird, 1981. This diversity of form arises from the plastic suggestiveness of the found materials themselves, their uncanny conjunctions, and the wonderful humanity of the idiosyncratic and deeply personal so distinctive of Miró's work.
The poetics of these late sculptures owes much to the tension between the happenstance of the found objects and their perpetuation in cast bronze. Most of his bronze sculptures were formed from the assemblage of sundry found objects. While even the most mundane, worthless object qualified in his view as "sculpture," Miró was careful to distinguish his work from that of his colleagues González and Picasso, 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 objects, culled from the detritus of life and pieced together to create, in his words, "a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters" (op. cit., p. 175).
(fig. 1) Joan Miró, Head and Bird, 1967. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. BARCODE 26007175