Saturday, December 22, 2012

Matta, Roberto

The Earth Is a Man
oil on canvas
182.9 x 243.8 cm (72 x 96 in.)
Art Institute of Chicago, IL, USA

Roberto Matta (1911 - 2002), in full Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurren, was one of Chile's best-known painters and a seminal figure in 20th century abstract expressionist and surrealist art. He was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American and Latin American cultures. He lived his adult life outside his homeland and became identified with the international Surrealist movement.

Born in Santiago, as a Spanish, Basque and French descent, he initially studied architecture completing an architecture degree at the Catholic University in Santiago, but became disillusioned with this occupation and left for Paris in 1933 to work for the influential architect and city planner Le Corbusier. While working in the architect’s studio, he became increasingly interested in painting. It was Breton who provided the major spur to Matta's direction in art, encouraging his work. His friendships with the avant-garde artists during this period, such as Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Federico Garcia Lorca, and others stimulated his interest in Surrealist Movement, and by 1936 he had abandoned architecture as a career.

Matta produced illustrations and articles for Surrealist journals such as Minotaure. His stylistic development was rapid. By the time he moved to New York City at age 28, he had created a distinctive and visionary vocabulary of biomorphic forms swirling about an eerie and angst-ridden setting. His mature work blended abstraction, figuration and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes. Matta, throughout his life, combined the Surrealists' interest in psychic automatism with a predilection for vaguely figural elements caught in states of flux and crisis. Rich in psychological ambiguity, his work reflects the sense of dislocation and anxiety that contributed to the emergence of existentialism after World War II.