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Yorkshire Sculpture Park cements its place on the world stage with a major new exhibition, as Jo Haywood reports Photographs by Jonty Wilde
Catalan artist Joan Mir believed sculpture must stand in the open air, in the middle of nature, which is perhaps why his family chose Yorkshire Sculpture Park to host the first major survey of his work in the UK.
With key works sited in the stunning West Yorkshire countryside, the exhibition, which runs until January 2013, provides a rare opportunity to experience the iconic artists repertoire in an environment that lives up to his own ambitions and ideals.
When Im living in the country, I never think about painting anymore.
Its sculpture that interests me, he said. May my sculptures be confused with elements of nature, tree, rocks, roots, mountains, plants, flowers.
Mir, who died in 1983 aged 90, was celebrated for his paintings, but strived to destroy painting with radical constructions that transformed sculpture forever more.
He produced around 400 sculptures and a similar number of ceramic works, the majority concentrated in the latter part of his career. He first began exploring collage and assembled structures around 1930, with sculpture becoming increasingly important to him from the 1960s onwards. He believed his sculpture was on an equal footing with his painting, although it was generally less known or critically examined in his lifetime.
Now, however, the full force of his work is being shown to great effect at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), making both the exhibition and its host a major talking point in the national and international art world.
Joan Mir at YSP is the largest sculpture exhibition of this important Spanish artist to date, said Peter Murray, the parks executive director. It is a great achievement to bring such an international event to
the region and will attract a lot of national and international support.
It will also bring increased visitor numbers to the county as art-lovers from around the globe make their way to Yorkshire to see Mirs work
at close quarters.
This is another major coup for Yorkshire, said Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.
To secure a UK first really shows how the county is fast becoming the European capital of sculpture.
Mirs work earned him global fame and we hope this will encourage visitors from around the world to pay a visit to YSP and see these works at first hand.
The parks purpose-built Underground Gallery is hosting Mirs phantasmagoric world of living monsters, tracing the evolution of his sculpture from 1946 to 1982 and linking smaller pieces to the open air art in the gardens beyond the exhibition spaces impressive glass concourse.
The survey begins with small, smooth bronze sculptures and works its way through to raw bronze constructions of found objects (mannequins, dolls, rustic vessels, discarded cans) created in the 1960s and 1970s. By encasing everyday objects in bronze, the artist demonstrated his insistence that his work must engage with something real and recognisable, free of tricks or grandiloquence, a direct art.
The YSP exhibition provides a rare chance for visitors to witness how Mirs work increased significantly in scale in the 1970s and 80s. The
large-scale outdoor pieces now given pride of place in the Yorkshire
landscape can usually only be seen at the artists foundation and estate in Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, so this is a major coup.
His family have also provided artefacts, drawings, models and photographs from their own private collection to give visitors to YSP a unique and fascinating insight into how Mirs working processes evolved over time.
YSP is the perfect venue for this important and timely survey, said Peter Murray. We have a reputation for curating the most ambitious projects of many artists careers, including Andy Goldsworthy and Jaume Plensa, as well as highly significant historical exhibitions, such as Isamu Noguchi, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Chillida.
Our commitment to enabling access to art of the highest international standard, integrated with an extensive public programme, reflects perfectly Mirs own beliefs in the potential of art to inspire and engage.
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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