Unreal Nature

February 14, 2017

Different Roles Elide

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… the Solar Bird’s different roles elide into one another, overlap, intermingle.

This is from ‘ Miró ‘ (1967) in About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-96 by David Sylvester (1996):

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Solar Bird

Miró’s Solar Bird got its name from the circle inscribed on its behind. I asked the artist whether the languages he speaks have any equivalent for “She thinks the sun shines out of her ass,” but the expression was new to him. During this conversation I learned that the longer and lower of the two birds was the Solar Bird, the taller, fatter one the Lunar Bird. I had previously spent two afternoons admiring them while believing that each was the other and thinking how aptly each was playing its role. However, they had been playing several other roles besides.

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Solar Bird

The Solar Bird changes identity most markedly as one’s viewpoint changes, but also suggests at least two or three identities from any single angle. From one position or another, it is a charging elephant, a seal, a boat, a horse, a motor bike, a turtle swimming, a best of burden, a sort of crucified figure, and a woman on her back. The crescent on top that stands for wings can be breasts as well as handlebars to be held by the man in the riding position.

[line break added] The knobs at the sides — the bird’s eyes — can be the woman’s stumps of arms — but also her breasts, and when they are these the wings are her arms stretched out to clutch or embrace. But these wings like a pair of horns are, of course, phallic too. The Solar Bird, indeed, might be a prototype for the third human sex which a sated world seems to be longing to discover.

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Solar Bird

The multiple evocations are probably richer and wider than in sculptures by Arp or Moore in the same tradition. But the Miró is also different in kind. What it evokes is not so much entities, or fragments of entities, as actions — on the one hand the various actions of which it seems capable (flying, swimming, running, clutching, bouncing, etc.), on the other the will to action it inspires in the beholder, especially the desire to ride. Thus the scale, which seems puzzlingly small given that this is a piece on an ambitious scale, is probably explained by its need to relate to ours in a useful way.

[line break added] Again, formally, the piece seems to derive from certain Picasso sculptures and sculptural pictures of 1928 to 1932 which present anatomical fragments piled together — in particular a modelled Woman’s head of 1932 composed of soft phallic shapes. But these Picassos propose a static situation, in the same way as a house of cards, since their equilibrium is so willfully precarious. The Solar Bird, on the contrary, and the Lunar Bird as well, so far from suggesting something holding itself together, seem the embodiments of flowing, sweeping gestures.

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Lunar Bird

The Lunar Bird rises, all rampant libido, looming up over humankind. Arrogant and hostile, it is crowned by a large crescent like the one on the back of the other bird, only, whereas in Solar this is there as if to be handled, here, inaccessible, it becomes a teasing emblem of domination. This seems a bird that might throw a stone at a personage. It is cocky, bullying, tumescent, and one can imagine avid women urging themselves on to the great spike that sticks out in front of it. So long as one stands facing it.

[line break added] From the side, that big thrusting thing is a pathetic bird’s tongue, and the monstrous eyes and threatening wings are sad, like a hungry fledgling’s. Another, almost equally ludicrous transformation happens round at the back. Especially from close to, the figure is gently female, in the manner of a matron. If one rode this woman, it would be as a baby on its peasant mother’s back. From here the horns belong to a placid, benevolent cow. The Lunar Bird, then, has three quite separate personalities — rampant man, feeble fledgling and fond mum — according to where one is standing; the Solar Bird’s different roles elide into one another, overlap, intermingle.

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Lunar Bird

My most recent previous post from Sylvester’s book is here.

-Julie

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