“You speak to me of my objects and ask how I conceive them. I never think about it in advance. I feel myself attracted by a magnetic force toward an object, and then I feel myself being drawn toward another object which is added to the first, and their combination creates a poetic shock–not to mention their original formal impact–which makes the poetry truly moving, and without which it would have no effect.”
Jeune fille s’évadant (“Girl Escaping”), with its air of wit and danger, the ceremonial and the sexual, ranks among the most ambitious and successful of the painted bronzes Miró created from found objects in his fertile later years. Its derivation can be traced back to the dizzy free-associating world of early Surrealism in the 1920s–echoes of Duchamp and Dalí ring out–while its joyous palette of primary colors speak to the irrepressible joie de vivre of the artist’s maturity.
Miró first 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 and vital approach to 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...that is the only thing–this magic spark–that counts in art" (in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, pp. 175 and 191). By the late 1960s, his sculptures had become fully three-dimensional collages: "My collages, today, are my sculptures," Miró declared in 1977–and in these colorfully painted bronzes first conceived a decade earlier he raises his gift of metamorphosis to new heights (quoted in W. Jeffett, The Shape of Color: Joan Miró's Painted Sculpture, exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 33).
These later sculptures reflect retrospectively on Miró's oeuvre, invoking both the playful, risk-taking attitude of the Surrealist 1930s and the telluric nationalism more characteristic of his work upon his return to Spain. "To paint, to sculpt, to etch, is maybe to give form to a myth," Miró reflected in 1974. "If I frequently integrate the objects as they are, with raw materials, it is not to obtain a plastic effect but by necessity...I need to walk on my earth, to live among my own, because everything that is popular is necessary for my work" (quoted in ibid., p. 21).
The elements of Jeune fille s’évadant would have been found in the studio built for Miró near Palma by his friend, Josep Lluis Sert, in 1956. William Jeffett, in his fascinating introductory essay in the catalogue for the 2002 exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., takes up the story: “The metaphorically running Jeune fille s’évadant consists of a pair of shop-window mannequin legs cast into bronze and painted bright red. The girl’s round yellow face derives from a ceramic element, as does the second blue face situated in her midsection. The presence of this second face recalls the sense in which many of these sculptures are as actors performing a ritual or masquerade. She wears a red hat, which, as [the artist's grandson] Joan Punyet Miró tells us, is cast from the tap of a cistern from Miró’s Montroig farm. The second face is the most curious element, as it allows the double reading as a torso made up of breasts, naval, and sex, and a separate face–perhaps the child she may one day bear, a child whose future is implicit in her coquettish and ironic sexuality, suggested also in her elegantly curving legs. A drawing indicating colors, and executed with colored pencils, specifically mentions this face with the note 'portar carota' (“to carry mask”), to which is added the word 'guix,' indicating that this element required an intermediate plaster model. A group of five drawings executed from November 25, 1964 to February 1, 1965 reveals that Miró began with the idea of the legs. The emphasis is further placed on the legs in the title, which appears for the first time in an untitled drawing from the sketchbook documenting sculpture. As her legs are slightly bent, and she is supported by a vertical rod, the idea is suggested that she is somehow turning away from us in a flirtatious gesture. The legs further introduce the very 1960s idea of sex appeal, again offered as an antidote to social and moral repression. The hat on her head may equally double as a bird (following the imagery of other works). Beyond such symbolism the tap also suggests a playful double entendre, for the tap suggests that we can 'turn her on, or turn her off,' while the color red provides a visual association between her slender legs and the tap, so that opening the tap might prompt her also to open her legs” (exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 38).
As the British collector Roland Penrose commented: “The literal fusion of sculpture and painting allows Miró to use the primary colours which are significant in his painting and to gain three-dimensional effects in which paint is no longer an illusory medium evoking depth on a flat surface but part of a solid object which can be touched and which can contain space as well as occupy it. The senses of sight and touch, which he has so often combined in the illusions created by his paintings and collages, here unite, and Miró exploits the possibilities offered with great skill.... The bewildering success of these marriages of improbable materials is the result of Miró’s ability to make use of anything that is at his disposal” (Miró, New York, 1970, p. 145).
"All the sculptures, in one way or another, seem to express the fantasy of matter becoming animate... But they do it in such a way that not even the most timid child would be frightened. These monsters are friendly, or at the most burlesquely frightening like the Meanies in the Beatles cartoon film, something to giggle about rather than cry over, an attempt, perhaps, on Miró's part to laugh us out of our bad dreams" (quoted in L. Coyle, "The Monsters in America: the Presentation and Reception of Miró's Sculpture in the United States," in op. cit., exh. cat., 2002, p. 80).