QUOTES TO CUT OUT THROUGH SPREADS:
‘Nothing is foreign to painting, to etching, to sculpture: one can work with anything – everything can be useful. If I frequently integrate the objects as they are, with raw materials, it is not to obtain a plastic effect but by necessity. It is in order to produce the shock of one reality against another…I need to walk on my earth, to live among my own, because everything that is popular is necessary for my work’
‘But he was also gathering objects, and wandering off impulsively into areas which opened uncertain paths and rich veins for innumerable new works; work I would call Assemblage-Sculpture. These works began with Miró slipping out of his studio, unseen, only to return with an impromptu harvest of objects – his bounty – without value or use, but susceptible, in his view, of combinations and surprising metaphors. All of these objects had been abandoned, thrown away or forgotten by nature and man alike, and Miró recognised them as his own. This refuse was the visionary’s secret treasure, his infinitely rich deposit of insignificant objects… He was convinced that whatever his foot might stumble over on the edge of a path could very well overwhelm our world’
Conceived in 1967 and cast by 1971, Personnage is one of a pivotal series of painted bronze ‘Assemblage-Sculptures’ that Joan Miró began to execute in this year. In the late 1960s, Miró wholeheartedly embraced sculpture in his continuing quest to expand the limits of art, and, following an earlier suggestion by Alberto Giacometti, in 1967, he fused his sculpture with painting by adding colour to these works. Ranking among the artist’s greatest contribution to 20th Century sculpture, this series of playful, highly coloured and exuberant works are created from an array of ‘found objects’, which, once assembled, were cast in bronze and then painted with boldly contrasting primary colours.
From the 1940s onwards, Miró had continued to amass a host of different objects, from bones, stones and tree trunks, to ironing boards and pieces of metal, trawling beaches and the countryside, as well as construction sites for objects that particularly caught his eye. ‘It all begins,’ as Jacques Dupin, who accompanied Miró on many of his daily walks, described, ‘with an unpremeditated harvesting. Miró slips out of his studio like a shadow and comes back laden down like a pack-horse. Laden with all sorts of things – valueless, obsolete, but capable in his eyes of unexpected associations and metamorphoses. With everything that man or nature has abandoned, forgotten, rejected. These throw-outs form the infinitely rich layers of insignificant objects among which Miró recognizes his own…In this hoard of debris, this manna amid famine, he unhesitatingly collects what he needs…so many elements capable of playing their part in the game, constantly renewed, that he is playing with the unknown…There are no subordinate things, only missed chances’ (J. Dupin, Miró as Sculptor, Barcelona, 1976, pp. 10-11).
The artist filled his studios both at Montroig and Palma with these pieces, laying them out on the floor whereupon he could mediate on them, often for long periods of time before he used them in a sculpture, allowing him to realise unexpected juxtapositions and unplanned combinations of elements. Jacques Dupin poetically described this long, contemplatory working process, ‘[Miró] also kept his distance, staying on the side-lines, all the while listening to [the objects], espying them, catching a glimpse of their own secret desires. Before approaching and combining them, he would withdraw and let their energy run its own course, letting them deliver themselves from their own insistent or overly eloquent nature… Miró would confine himself to patience and waiting, until the found-object matured, found its own language, and confided its inner secret in this very language. An eternity passed, then the sculptor’s intervention was triggered, a lightning death-blow, or an eternal musical pause…’ (J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1993, p. 372).
From among this detritus lying around his studio in 1967, Miró chose an old bent section of plumbing pipe and stood it on end, suggesting the figure of a man pointing, like Giacometti’s existentialist, naked, standing male figure of 1947 (sold, Christie’s New York, 11 May 2015, lot 29A). Miró already had in mind the head: a piece of sheet metal he had used back in 1945 to create a Personnage, not catalogued and presumably no longer extant (Joan Miró Painted Sculpture: The Shape of Colour, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 39). It also appears in Sculpture-Objet, 1950 (Miró & Chapel, no. 40). This found fragment was perhaps the remnant from a warplane downed during the Spanish Civil War; the cut-outs in the metal object suggest a man’s nose, mouth, and right eye. An attached ovoid object served as the second eye. The attached section of fence-top spears represents the Personnage’s hair standing on end – Miró left it up to the viewer to imagine what might have startled him.
‘Before an assembly sculpture by Miró,’ Dupin observed, ‘one is frequently struck by the insouciance of its construction, which looks like a defiance of all equilibrium; a sort of threatening instability, which makes us uneasy and pushes us forward, with outstretched arms, as if to ward off some impending catastrophe…The shock potential of the sculptures also comes from contrasts and oppositions, at times from conflicts – conflicts not pre-mediated but encountered along the way and judiciously exploited…conflicts that generate tensions, spatial energy and dynamism. Miró makes vigorous use of all these in turning his assemblies of objects into sculptures’ (J. Dupin, op. cit., 1976, p. 19).