Coachella Valley residents have a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the development and creative world of a 20th-century master: Joan Mirό.
Along with Picasso and Chagall, Mirό set standards by which the works of other 20th-century artists are judged, and you can see why at Christian Hohmann Fine Art, where I was given a preview of the Hohmann Presents Mirό exhibit. The display of Mirό prints and works on paper allows visitors to see first-hand the evolution of Mirό (1893-1983) from a surrealist with a personal twist into an innovative artist who created a personal style and visual vocabulary that is clearly recognizable and unique.
The pieces reflect different periods in the artist’s oeuvre and vary in size, but the curator demonstrates a clear understanding of Mirό’s creative process. Without exception, each work has a monumental impact.
Created in the 1930s, “Daphnis and Chloé” and “Portrait de Mirό” clearly reflect the artist’s understanding and ability to speak in language of the surrealists. However, these two pieces offer something greater: They provide insights into what would become Mirό’s signature style. With “Daphnis and Chloe,” romanticism—with a touch of edginess—abounds. Mirό captures the essence of the story and introduces us to a measured complexity that permeates all of his later work.
“Portrait de Mirό” (right), his only recognizable self-portrait in his early surrealist era, shows the artist living in, shaped by and ultimately a behind-the-scenes chronicler of his time. This powerful self-portrait is as disconcerting as it is engaging: One eye is concurrently inviting and hollow, while the second eye seems deformed or occluded. The head and face—created by a composition of seemingly discordant lines and forms—capture our attention.
Both pieces, especially the “Portrait de Mirό,” contain what will become the artist’s signature iconography.
“Nous Avons,” a 1950s series, is decidedly Mirό, but with a minimalist twist. After seeing a comet, Mirό completed this series. The pieces seem like an homage to his experience; its elegance is engaging.
“Nous Avons” consists of four forms: one baseball bat-like shape, one straight line, one curved line and a blue orb. The bat-like shape and the lines intersect; however the unattached blue sphere seems to float in space. In its entirety, there is a clear sense of motion that is neither tiresome nor dizzying.
Joyousness is one’s major reaction to “The Singing Fish.” This is pure Mirό! Against an irregular backdrop of pale teal is one of Mirό’s animal-like figures. Rectangular and triangular areas are steely-blue, light emerald-green, pale olive-green or black. By outlining the entire figure in black, it stands out. Mirό’s figure and pale teal back backdrop appear grounded in space. However, his broad brush-like and circular shapes in yellow, orange, grey-blue and red give a sense of depth.
Although the image is uniquely Mirό, “Vers la Gauche” (below) is different. Here, the artist reinvents himself with a piece of art that does not contain his characteristic playful forms. Instead, Mirό gives us a freeform rectangular backdrop in shades of light gray. In front of the gray are two major forms: an aqua-colored “U,” and an arrow. Both sit on their sides. The artist masterfully creates tension and depth by having the curved part of the “U” and part of the arrow’s shaft extend beyond the right edge of the rectangle. However, this piece is stereotypically Mirό thanks to the inclusion of his characteristic black-lined symbols, along with soft pastel-like colored orbs and brush-like strokes.
Hohmann Presents Mirό is on display from Saturday, Nov. 29, through Saturday, Jan. 31, at Christian Hohmann Fine Art, 73660 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-4243, or visit www.christianhohmann.com.