Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Body Without Limits at Joan Miró Foundation

A Body Without Limits at Joan Miró Foundation

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BARCELONA, SPAIN.-The Joan Miró Foundation presents “A body without limits”, a major exhibition curated by the art historian Jean-Louis Prat and sponsored by BBVA. Its aim is to help us understand the changes in the portrayal of the human body that took place in the twentieth century, a period when the human figure ceased to be treated merely as a portrait or a symbol of beauty and became a vehicle for expressing emotions.

“A body without limits” contains over 90 paintings and sculptures produced between 1900 and 2007 by 41 artists from all the main avant-garde movements, including Rodin, Bonnard, Schiele, Kirchner, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Miró, Moore, Dubuffet, Basquiat, Tàpies and Fischl, among others. Many of the pieces on show come from private collections and offer a unique opportunity to see at first hand works by the masters of modern art.

The works are arranged in such a way as to demonstrate by confrontation, juxtaposition or contrast the richness of the artistic languages used in the last century as well as the individual contributions of each of the artists.

For centuries, resemblance to reality was essential in painting. The academies studied the body in order to present beautiful images, with idealised forms fixed by convention. Then came the invention of photography and its ability to reproduce reality, which was without doubt one of the most important developments, and led artists to look at new ways of representing the human body.

A new mood emerged from these changes – a certain freedom that affected the behaviour of creative artists. In 1863, Manet’s painting Olympia forged a new path in the representation of the human figure in art, with the sitter depicted as a contemporary of the artist and unashamedly displaying her body to the viewer. It is a real nude body, not an academic study; an anonymous body that is a forthright expression of modernity, rather than a representation of ancient divinities.

Karl Marx’s social revolution and the discovery of hitherto unexplored limits of sexuality by Sigmund Freud opened the door to the emergence of new concepts and passions that permitted a negation of the past and the liberation of the body and the manner of representing it. Unfortunately, the last century also brought with it new evils that were the result of war and that altered the forms of representation.

From then on, the nude ceased to be idealised and began to be shown for what it is. Beauty was no longer linked to formalism and its new canons permitted all sorts of aesthetic revolutions and a new sense of freedom of creation and expression.

This trend became firmly established, and it was the variations in the way of depicting the body that would mark the changes of style. The Expressionists, for instance, painted a tormented body; the Cubists incorporated aspects of primitive art; the Surrealists emphasised the eroticism of the nude; and after the Second World War, the tormented body returned with artists such as De Kooning, Bacon and Freud.

The catalogue of “A body without limits” is published by the Foundation in Catalan, Spanish and English, with articles by Jean-Louis Prat, Jorge Semprún and José Luis Pardo and commentaries on the artists by the curator and other authors.

A seminar – A body without limits (The human body and modernity) – will be held from 6 November to 13 December 2007 in collaboration with the Universitat de Barcelona and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, which will carry academic credits for students enrolling on it. Taking part will be distinguished specialists in contemporary art, university teachers and art critics, among them Jean-Louis Prat, curator of the exhibition, who will start off the series of lectures with a review of the representation of the human body in the twentieth century. Pierre Daix, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Robert Lubar, Lourdes Cirlot, Ángel González, Fèlix Fanés, Antoni Llena, Imma Julián and Anna Maria Guasch will focus on some of the artists whose works are included in the exhibition.

“A body without limits” takes viewers on a tour of the history of twentieth-century art, in a review of the past that offers visions of the human body that never cease to surprise. It is a body that can be shown openly, without inhibitions, simply for the extreme pleasure of contemplating it in all its truth.

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