My father has been sick for several years now, and his illness has brought me several times to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. While I have never confirmed this, I can confidently assert that Mayo clinic believes art and healing are closely tied. Warhol screenprints, Chihueley glass, Rodin and Mestrovic sculpture, a series of work by Ellsworth Kelly: these are the people I passed each day as I walked with my father and mother to his appointments. On the rear wall of a waiting room I have become too familiar with there are five enormous and towering lithographs by Joan Miro hanging side by side. I would like to say I have spent hours studying them, but it would be more accurate to say I have spent many hollow days staring blankly through them. In museums we interpret art. In clinical settings, art seems to interpret you. I began to find hope in these lithographs over the course of our time there, and as far as my dad’s illness is concerned, that hope has yet to disappoint us. Miro’s pieces, while factually void of a commitment to rules and undeniably filled with lines and forms that feel structurally random and unplanned, also paradoxically embody a deep and grounded trust in some unexplained notion of purpose. As Miro and I waited together I found myself situated between this mystery as well.
I begin with long winded introduction to preface that I have developed a sort of allegiance to Miro. As I walked through the galleries of the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art I couldn’t help but be drawn to his painting “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape).” While there are so many new works on display I reverently stood and admired, I’m compelled to stay loyal to a confidant and friend. “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)”, an oil painting on canvas painted by Joan Miro is 1924, is filled with iconography representative of not only Miro’s life’s work, but also of the Dada movement as well. Again, as mentioned before, I initially noticed the unsteady and abandoned perspective. This landscape has not completely given itself to abstraction but does take legibility to the limit. The dreamlike fauve colored landscape of chartreuse and flesh pink is littered with forms composed of sparsely connected lines and shapes that follow no consistent or cohesive rendering or scale. The painting appears light and playful but as the bodies shift, disintegrate, go solid then threadbare this weird ungraspable rule breaking multiplicity morphs into something unsettlingly anarchic and strange. I began to feel the Hieronymus Bosch-like petri dish of amorphous amebae crawling beneath my skin. In a painting where a wiry rabbit in the upper left corner held by a triangle faced stick figure with a pipe and floating heart has consistently been described as “the hunted” I began to wonder if the hunted is actually intended to be me. It was here that I found the enigmatic harmony through confusion and disarray that Miro had coached me through once before. A grimmer harmony but harmony none the less. In a painting of directional lines that lead to nowhere I began to notice that the identity of both the hunter and the hunted is actually unclear, and it is this riddle, this relationship, that holds our searching gaze. Each form connects mysteriously to the next searching for answers. The man with the pipe could be the hunter, but the spider-like form descending from above could also hold the title. A large round eye approaching from the right, the mosquito beneath it, or the yellow semi-circle figure straining across a majority of the ground plane towards the green triangle are also potential contenders. There are numerous other figures to analyze as well but in short, it is this hidden brilliance, this interconnected persistent and insistent mystery woven through absurdity, that I admire so in Miro’s cleverly illustrated Surrealist realities.
Joan Miro created with passion for innovation and a radical sense of desire to renew traditional mediums. His experimental techniques, inventive visual vocabulary, and insightful concepts sought into uncharted territory to visually articulate invisible truth. The Museum of Modern Art’s renovation and updated curation seeks as a whole to embody this intention. Many timeless pieces have been taken down to make room for newer yet equally as prestigious works of art; however, “The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)” remains on view honoring Joan Miro’s contributions as a creative pioneer of the modern era.