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Miquel Barcelo at the Musée de Céret

There is a new exhibit of the works of Miquel Barceló, called Terra ignis, at the Musée d'art moderne de Céret, in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of France, which reveals some new directions in the artist's work. Philippe Dagen has some thoughts on this in an article (Miquel Barcelo transforme ornements de toit et urnes de jardin en œuvres d'art, August 28) for Le Monde (my translation):
The exhibit of his recent sculptures at the Musée de Céret puts him in a different light. Barceló got interested in terra cotta during his visits to the Dogon lands of Mali, some twenty years ago. He is working this medium in a style of tile and brick making from Majorca, his native island. Now that choice, which was made back then only for practical reasons, is producing singular effects. In a tile-brick style he is making, with moulds and ovens, pieces of standard construction material: cube-shaped or rectangular bricks with round or square holes, straight or elbowed tubes, carved eave or roof ornaments, and garden urns. Barceló is appropriating all of it.

While they are still soft, he deforms the bricks, which seem to twist and undulate. He embeds tubes in basins whose edges curve and sides fold. He incises, scratches, and breaks. These manipulations and assemblages give birth to works full of allusions. The original materials are instantly recognizable -- Barceló does not try to disguise them. The subjects are sometimes just as recognizable -- a head, or a guitar. In many other cases, they are so abstract that it gives one pause.

Barceló thus applies the principles of cubist assemblage and the ready-made to ceramic. He recuperates, deflects, and modifies. He draws something banal and mute to the side by a figural allusion. He takes advantage of chance occurrences in the materials and process, when clay that is too soft collapses on itself or when the heat of baking fractures or cracks it. You can imagine the number of failed experiments necessary for the creation of the fifty-some pieces on display. Barceló is also able to save a piece of debris and integrate it into a new attempt, even to the point that, like a painter, he takes advantage of the unforeseen events of color and shape.
The permanent collection of the museum in Céret has a number of works by Picasso, an artist who grew to love the place from his stays there in the summers of 1911 to 1913. Some of the Barceló pieces are on display mixed in with the works of Picasso and others. The exhibit is on view at the Musée d'art moderne de Céret through November 12. More pictures here.

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