Since its total overhaul a few years ago, Yorkshire Sculpture Park has become arguably the UK’s finest outdoor art space; bringing to the public a variety of revolving and permanent exhibitions of both traditional and the best of contemporary sculpture.
It’s hard to believe it but YSP’s latest exhibition, Miró: Sculptor, is actually the first ever exhibition of the surrealist masters sculptures in the UK; confirming both Yorkshire and it’s Sculpture Park’s importance in contemporary art. The exhibition follows two major art events in 2011; the first major retrospective of the Catalan artist’s work in almost 50 years at Tate Modern and the opening of Hepworth Wakefield; a major exhibition space which celebrates Yorkshire as the birth of British sculpture.
YSP already did a wonderful job of celebrating Yorkshire and the best British sculpture with its plethora of permanent displays by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Andy Goldsworthy and Antony Gormley among many, many others and the opening Hepworth Wakefield only confirms Yorkshire’s importance in British and international sculpture. However, Miró: Sculptor gives YSP a whole new level of gravitas.
The show is impressive; not just because of the work displayed but also in the curation of said work. YSP doesn’t hold back. They hit you straight off with three of their largest works on display in the very first room; showing off both their amazing gallery space and the sheer enormity of what they have here. As the light comes in through the lakeside windows and floods the ‘Underground (the space is actually dug out of the hill side facing the lake) Gallery’, three solid black bronzes against a white background dwarfs the visitors with all manner of obtuse lumps, limbs and contortions. It’s the perfect first move.
The following rooms showcase Miró’s first encounters with Dadaist found objects and his early attempts at bringing a new dimension to his form of surrealism. We see not only the evolution of found objects to plaster maquettes and small scale bronzes but also the transformation of many of these into some of the monumental bronze and resin works which are displayed in the park’s beautiful gardens. This process will enlighten fans of sculpture, those already hardened Miró fans but also those out there that may still find contemporary art a struggle.
A surprise feature to this show is the juxtaposition of sculpture with many of Miró’s etching and lithograph based work; an experimentally creative (albeit commercial) venture which many of the masters took up in their later years. There is one specific room which uses both print works and sculptures to full effect. The prints are of particular interest to me because I used to sell them in London galleries. The medium of print became just as much of a creative and experimental medium for Miro as sculpture but more notably in his later years. Though as good as they are, by no mean is this show about the prints. These are used as a tool to highlight the creative process; something which has been attempted (and failed) many times before with other artists in other galleries; most notably Dali.
My only gripe, and believe me it is very minor one is other than a video, there isn’t much in the exhibition to shed light on the artist’s fascinating and tragic past in war torn Catalonia or the period in which while he was at the peak of his adventures in sculpture, he literally “strove to destroy painting through an art form that transcended the two-dimensional plane”, intentionally painting canvases just to then burn them to ashes. And yes, I realise that this exhibition is a focus on the sculptural process but I feel this would have highlighted Miró’s importance at a creative force in all art forms, just as the print work displayed tries to.
In a year when the Olympics will be drawing all attention to the many overtly British exhibitions taking place in London this summer, such as Damien Hirst and Edvard Munch at Tate Modern and tourist monsters such as The Queen at National Portrait Gallery, do not let Miró: Sculptor at Yorkshire Sculpture Park get lost under your radar… you will be missing out on one of the year’s most important art exhibitions outside of the capital; right in your own back garden.
The exhibition is free entry with a payable parking charge of £5, which is a bargain considering similar shows in London would be £10 - £13 per person. As well as Miró: Sculptor, there much more on offer, with a couple of smaller exhibitions by other artists and designers and the always brilliant permanent displays within the park and grounds around Bretton Hall.
All images courtesy of YSP. © Jonty Wilde
Photo credits. Top - Bottom:
- Joan Miró, Personnage Gothique, Oiseau Eclair, 1976 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012
- Joan Miró, Personnage 1970 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Jonty Wilde
- Joan Miró, Project for a Monument, 1979 © Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012. Photo Gabriel Ramon