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Joan Miró: Birth of the World at MoMA

Brooklyn Rail - Art Review - May 2, 2019

“Peaceable contentment, untroubled by any curiosity, is a tangible sign of the insupportable bumptiousness that is the most obvious prerogative of the majority of mankind,” Michel Leiris wrote in his entry on metamorphosis in Georges Bataille’s Critical Dictionary in 1930. “To remain at ease with oneself, like wine in a wineskin, is an attitude contrary to all passion, and consequently to everything that is really worthwhile.” Perhaps Leiris was thinking of painter Joan Miró, at least in part, when he wrote the entry. For it was to Leiris, a Surrealist poet and writer that the painter had confided six years earlier in 1924, that: “You and all my writer friends have given me much help and improved my understanding of many things.” Having come under the influence of poets, Miró underwent a rebirth in his work that the artist himself identified with the completion of The Birth of the Worldin 1925. The painting was, he said, “a sort of genesis.” A current exhibition at MoMA, organized by Anne Umland and Laura Braverman and titled Birth of the World, corroborates Miró’s analysis, positing this painting as the artist’s first breakthrough in his attempts to achieve a visual poetics, a task with which he would remain concerned throughout the rest of his life.


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