Wall, Frieze, Mural presents Miró’s murals in the context of his oeuvre as a whole and proposes an atypical reading of the artist’s approach to painting. It points up certain constants in the artist’s career, not least the inherently monumental quality of his art and his desire to work on a large scale. The exhibition and the publication accompanying it naturally feature the artist’s ceramic mural in the courtyard of Zurich’s Kunsthaus, Birds taking Flight (1971–72), a major piece that is all too often overlooked and is here the subject of a long overdue reappraisal.
Miró’s work is distinguished by a compelling directness and an emphatically material quality. Unsurprisingly, then, his statements about his work often focus on ‘pure’, simple forms and on the surface of the wall as the wellspring of his painting. At first, it was the walls of the family farmhouse at Mont-roig, south of Barcelona. These formed the starting point for his well-known painting The Farm (1921–22), in which he recorded their material beauty with meticulous attention to detail and to great poetic effect, including such ‘imperfections’ as blades of grass, seedlings, insects, blotches and cracks in the plaster.
Miró viewed both reality and its representation in art in material terms. For him, the wall
In this way, the matter of reality corresponded to the matter of his paintings. This move away from a straightforward reproduction of reality to the equation of the picture plane with a wall informed his work from the outset. We have chosen to show The Farm alongside The Hope of a Condemned Man (1974), linking Miró’s early representations of walls with the wall-like graffiti in that monumental late triptych and its harrowing indictment of Franco’s continued cruelty during the final years of his regime. This pairing of an early with a late work establishes a strategy pursued throughout the exhibition.
Miró’s approach to the wall explains the care with which he selected and prepared the grounds of his pictures at every stage of his career. Here, as elsewhere, he often worked in series, and the exhibition installation mirrors that practice by uniting works executed on grounds of a similar colour or using similar everyday materials.