Joan Miró's Wild Decade
During the hothouse Jazz Age, when the birds and the bees seemed to be on everyone's mind, Miró took the cliché of the Spanish dancer, all flamenco and sexual innuendo, and reduced it to its primal elements. Using nothing but a feather, a cork, and an oversize hatpin, Miró created what Surrealist poet Paul Éluard described as "the barest picture imaginable" while managing to suggest the fetishism of some tribal ritual, where ordinary things take on magical or erotic powers. "I have to tell you," Miró wrote a friend in late 1927, "that I look at real things with increasing love—the fuel lamp, potatoes." Bare-bones collage with a Freudian whiff was one way to kill off the kind of commercially acceptable painting that Miró and his avant-garde friends took as their target, but Miró had other weapons. "I imagine to attack every day more and more thoroughly," he wrote to a friend in 1928, using the violent language he had learned from Surrealist associates like André Breton, to whom he gave Portrait of a Dancer. He would "make my victims die cleanly, without agonizing nerve spasm."