in Cleveland Museum of Art exhibit
By Benjamin Pogany
Published Nov. 8, 2006
Gaudí, Miró, Dalí
Oct. 15 - Jan. 7
Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
General admission: $15 Saturdays and Sundays, $12 weekdays.
Seniors 65 and over: $13 Saturdays and Sundays, $10 weekdays.
FREE to CMA Members.
216–421–7350 or 1–888–CMA–0033
The current Cleveland
Museum of Art exhibition, “Barcelona
& Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí” appears at an odd
time. With the museum closed
for its massive renovation, and the regular galleries not scheduled
to begin reopening until fall 2007, I expected “Barcelona” to be
more of a snack than a meal – something small and quickly thrown
together to tide over art lovers until next year.
Instead, I found
a world-class showcase of the art of Barcelona from 1868 to 1939. The exhibition features more than 350 pieces
in a variety of media by 90 different artists.
“Barcelona” is the first exhibit in North America to cover
the period, and has been more than two years in the planning. The CMA even went as far as to hire Jordi Falgas, a curator and
art historian from Barcelona, to aid with the planning and acquisitions.
more than a dozen rooms, the exhibit is divided into three major
movements: Modernisme, Noucentisme and Avant-Gardism.
In the late 19th century, Barcelona was the largest and most
industrialized city in Spain, and its cultural sophistication soon
followed. By the mid-1880s, Catalan Modernisme was under
way, led by painters Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol, among others.
had a very special blending of two main features,” Falgas said.
“One is new forms of art, and those would be similar to Art Nouveau
Modernisme shares many characteristics with Art Nouveau, as well
as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
In the exhibition itself, Modernisme is defined primarily
by its rejection of earlier academic themes – historical painting,
classicism, religious painting – in favor of examining various social
problems, such as poverty, crime, and drug addiction.
These concerns are exemplified by works such as Casas’ “The
Garroting,” and Rusiñol’s “Morphine.”
to Falgas, Modernisme also has a distinctly Catalan flavor. In addition to its progressive tendencies,
Modernisme also sought to recover the Catalan culture of the Middle
Ages – an idea best represented in architecture by Antoni Gaudí’s
“Sagrada Familia Temple.” The
temple’s gothic and medieval influences are obvious, but the building
is still fully modern, and remains Barcelona’s most recognizable
The second major
section of the exhibition is Noucentisme, literally “1900-ism.”
The Noucentisme movement was a reaction of sorts against the emotional
and formal excesses of Modernisme. It emphasized clear, orderly
design over experimentation, and dealt with more conservative themes. Though the Noucentisme section is smaller than
the others, it still contains fantastic works by artists like Joaquim
Sunyer and Joaquin Torres-Garciá.
Another highlight is Picasso’s “The Harem,” a precursor to
his famous “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”.
The third section
of the exhibition, Avant-Gardism, encompasses a number of progressive
art movements such as cubism and surrealism.
The section features an impressive selection of works by
Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, among others. Spanish Avant-Gardism
reached maturity in the 1920s and 30s, and was typified by complex
symbolism and sometimes baffling abstraction. Highlights include Miró’s “The Hunter” and
Dalí’s “The Dream.”
Even as Avant-Gardism
became increasingly difficult and complex, Catalan architecture
was moving in the opposite direction.
The Avant-Garde section features photographs and plans of
buildings by Barcelona’s many so-called “rationalist” architects. The buildings are reminiscent of the European International style,
characterized by economic efficiency, straight, clear lines and
clean, unornamented surfaces. Most
noteworthy is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s pavilion for the Barcelona
International Exposition of 1929.
closes on a dark note with the arrival of the Spanish Civil War.
An array of propaganda posters announces Catalonia’s unification
against Franco’s forces, while the conflict also starts to appear
in the works of the Avant-Gardists.
It is somewhat
ironic that the Avant-Gardists were the generation of artists called
upon to speak about the war, with their obliqueness and love of
symbolism. A Modernisme work like Nonell’s “Poor People
Working for Soup” speaks very directly about a social problem. With Picasso’s “Bull Skull, Fruit, Pitcher,”
on the other hand, we can only speculate on what he is saying about
the war – the real-life tragedy of the conflict is hidden from us.
the exhibition is brilliant from start to finish. A guided tour or audio tour (either is free with admission) will
lead you through the exhibition’s highlights in about an hour, or
you can go at your own pace. I
spent about two and a half hours, and still felt that I had more
But Falgas encourages
visitors not to be intimidated: “I always like to stress that I
do believe that it’s an exhibition for all ages and audiences. That’s the nice thing about modern art – you
don’t have to have a lot of prior information to really understand
it, even if it’s some really abstract surrealist like Dali or Miro.”
runs now through Jan. 7. General
admission tickets are $12 on weekdays, and $15 on Saturdays and
Sundays, with discounts available for children, seniors, college
students and groups. For
information, call 1 (888) CMA-0033, or (216) 421-7350.