Dau al Brossa | Glòria Bordons

Text by the curator 


The exhibition Dau al Brossa highlights the importance of the Catalan poet Joan Brossa in the genesis and development of Dau al Set, both through his collaborations in the magazine and through the dialogues he established between the works of the group’s three painters and those of Joan Miró, the master of them all. The show is rounded off with a conversation within Brossa’s own poetic output: the spirit and the poems of the Dau al Set period dialogue with the works he created during the 1980s, weaving a thread always present in the poet’s production.


Joan Brossa’s poetic oeuvre became known from the time of the magazine Dau al Set. In 1947, a group of friends decided to make a magazine, called Algol, with a clear determination to break with the atmosphere of those years. Another group of painters bought the magazine and they published a new one altogether. In a kind of game started by Modest Cuixart, Brossa suggested the name «Dau al Set», an impossible chance very much in line with the spirit of the the magazine. The founders of Dau al Set were: the painters Antoni Tàpies, Modest Cuixart, Joan Ponç and Joan-Josep Tharrats; the philosopher Arnau Puig, and the poet Joan Brossa. The publication aimed to open an avant-garde platform in a hermetic environment. Within the premises of Surrealism, it merged an essentially magicist art and literature with contemporary music and visual arts, which gave the magazine international recognition.

During the first years, Joan Brossa became the soul of the group, as Arnau Puig and the painters have certified. He was the oldest, and this, together with his character and confidence at public speaking, made him somehow the group’s «prophet». Thus, it was not by chance that, in 1949, he wrote oracles for Tàpies, Ponç and Cuixart, which were successively published in different issues of the magazine. Although in those years Brossa began creating his first «experimental» poems (little «visual art» pieces) and even participated in the group’s 1951 exhibition, he was the team’s poet and man of the theatre, as his vast literary production demonstrates. As a result of this, however, Brossa has not occupied his rightful place in the exhibitions held so far about the magazine. It is in this sense that, with the show Dau al Brossa, we wish to defend Brossa’s central role in the catalytic project that was Dau al Set.

The exhibition’s point of departure is the magazine itself, and it features Brossa’s work during his Dau al Set period, presenting the different contributions the poet made to it. On the other hand, as the poems and plays are accompanied by the painters’ drawings and etchings, the exhibition has been structured in the form of dialogues. These conversations, nevertheless, go beyond the magazine and continue in letters, dedicated poems and manuscripts, which evidence the intimate and professional relationship between the artists and the poet. The book Em va fer Joan Brossa (Joan Brossa Made Me) represents a turning point in Brossa’s career. This small volume, published by Cobalto —publishing house of the art critic Rafael Santos Torroella—, with a pen-portrait by Ponç and a foreword by João Cabral de Melo, is the piece around which the letters of Cuixart and Tàpies revolve. Both praise enthusiastically a series of poems that, as their title announced, were material and concrete flashes (with words) of everyday reality (as Cabral put it in his foreword: «words from the kitchen, the town fair, the back of the workshop »). An example, therefore, of the force of Brossa’s poetic breakup in 1950.

The dialogues go even further, with the presence of paintings where the viewer will be able to compare the painters’ night magics with Brossa’s mythological pieces of prose or absurd plays. A surprise and absolute novelty are a set of etchings and drawings by Joan Ponç which include the enigmatic words of the poet, as well as a little painting by Cuixart, also with a text by Brossa. These art pieces, found recently in a folder, are presented to the public for the first time and provide irrefutable evidence of the mutual understanding between the painters and the poet during those years.

The show wouldn’t have been complete without the presence of Joan Miró, the master of them all, who gave Brossa advice since the beginning of his career. That is why Dau al Brossa also devotes a dialogue to Miró and Brossa: on the one hand, the text «Joan Miró dels ventalls» (Joan Miró of the fans), written by Brossa for the 1949 issue of Dau al Set, on occasion of the first post-war Miró exhibition held at the Galeries Laietanes in Barcelona; and on the other, one of the first sonnets that the poet sent to the painter in 1943, and the letter  with Miró’s answer.

Dau al Set dissolved in 1955, although many of its founding members considered it finished by 1949. Each one of the artists followed their own path, even though the relationship between them continued with more or less intensity. In many cases, their poetics changed radically. As regards Brossa, despite the formal changes, we could say that the pathway he started in 1950 with Em va fer Joan Brossa (Joan Brossa Made Me) would never come to an end. For this reason, the final dialogues of the exhibition Dau al Brossa take place between «brossian» elements and poems s of the Dau al Set period and objects and visual poems from the 1980s, when the poet’s work was already being displayed at art galleries. In a certain way, the fire of Dau al Set keeps spreading and its flames still reach us today.

Glòria Bordons

Barcelona, May 2016

Published in Dau al Brossa. Barcelona, 2016. p. 11