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Roberto Matta


Roberto  Matta


ROBERTO MATTA (1911 - 2002 )

Roberto Antonio Sebastián Matta Echaurren was born on November 11, 1911 in Santiago, Chile. Matta was educated in his native country as an architect and interior designer at the Sacré Coeur Jesuit

College and at the Catholic University of Santiago, from 1929-31. In 1933 he became a Merchant Marine which enabled him to leave Santiago and travel to Europe. From 1933-34 he worked in Paris as an atelier for famed-architect LeCorbusier. At the end of 1934 Matta visited Spain, where he met the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, who through a letter, introduced young Roberto to Salvador Dalí. Dali in turn encouraged Matta to show some of his drawings to Andre Breton.

Matta's acquaintance with Dali and Breton strongly influenced his artistic formation and subsequently connected him to the Surrealist movement, which he officially joined in 1937. He was in London for a short period in 1936 and worked with Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy. Matta's employment with the architects of the Spanish Republican pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition (1937) exposed him to Picasso's Guernica (1937; Madrid, Prado) which greatly impressed him and influenced him in his work. At this time, he was introduced to the work of Marcel Duchamp, whom he met not long after. He later went to Scandinavia where he met the architect Alvar Aalto and then to Russia where he worked on housing design projects.

The summer of 1938 marks the evolution of Matta's work from drawing to painting. Roberto completed his first inscape oil paintings while in Brittany and working with Gordon Onslow Ford in Brittany. Forced to leave Europe with the outbreak of war, Roberto arrived in New York in the Fall of 1938. In an article by Kathy Zimmerer of Latin American Masters, Beverly Hills, she describes Crucifiction [1938] as: "evolving biomorphic forms that mutate and flow across the surface of the canvas Matta's fluid realm of space cushions their journey. His luminous palette of deep crimson, yellow, blue and black, defines and outlines the organic forms as they undergo metamorphoses."

Crucifiction is representative of a non-figurative period of Matta's work where he developed his palette and use of color to create energized forms and space. Consistent with his later works and with Surrealist theories of practice, Matta began his exploration of the visionary landscape of the subconscious. Matta looked to his friend and mentor Yves Tanguay whose works recall the hellscapes and allegories of 15th and 16th century Dutch artists such as Bosch or Bruegel. In addition, both Matta and Tanguay create a universe that is simultaneously firey and chilly that is often connected to their own social consciousness of the on-going war in Europe. Canady in "Mainstreams of Monder Art", describes Matta's composition versus Tanguay's as have a "more diagrammatic composition [possibly a result of his architectural training] where a kind of astral geometry organizes the holocaust."

In addition to Tanguay's strong influence, there are parallels between Picasso's Guernica and Matta's Crucifixion. Both works of art motivated by their respecitve spiritual and social consciousness. In Guernica, Picasso emphasizes the "spiritual hideousness of which mankind is generaly capable". Matta focuses on the spiritual affect of the machinations of war. The visual landscape he creates connects us to each other, implying that when we declare war on others, we are really waging war with ourselves. These ideas are embodied in fluid forms and in their fluidity, texture, and contrast. Matta's style and willing exploration of the surrealist philosophy of automatic composition heavily influenced the development of the Abstract Expressionist school and their exploration of Action painting.

Roberto Matta first exhibited in the Julian Levy Gallery, New York in 1940. The 40's signified the re-entry of the human figure in Matta's compositions creating a compositional dialogue of Man vs. the Machine. The forms he created were organic and existed in symbiotic relationships with machines.

In 1947, Matta was expelled from the surrealists. By 1950's and 60's he established homes in Rome, Paris, and London. Roberto visited Cuba in 1960's to work with art students. 1962 awarded the Marzotto Prize for La Question Djamilla, inspired by the Spanish Civil War. His work of the 1960's tended to have distinct political and spiritual intentions. Much of his work consisted themes related to events occurring such places as Vietnam, Santo Domingo, and Alabama. An exhibition of 1968 at the Iolas Gallery in New York displayed much of this work.

The 1960's marked not only a change in his themes, but in his style. He found influence in contemporary culture while remaining close to his Surrealist roots. His work can generally be split into two areas: cosmic and apocalyptic paintings. Elle s'y Gare, is an example of the cosmic arena and what Andre Breton called "absolute automatism". The idea of automatism was a key element of the Surrealist movement, which emphasized the suppression of conscious control over a composition in order to give free reign to the unconscious imagery and associations. Matta used automatism in a manner that allowed one form to give rise to another until unification was achieved or until further elaboration destroyed the composition. These "chance" compositions are exploited with a fully conscious purpose. The artist takes over.

As Chilean painter, printmaker and draughtsman, Matta left Chile as a young man and did not like to be thought of as a "Latin American" artist. He was certainly one of the few Surrealist artists to take on political, social, and spiritual themes directly and without abandoning the biomorphic mutations he is known for and without resorting to social realism.


Curriculum Vitae


Oils, sculptures and mixed media - Galleria d'Arte Maggiore, Bologna


Matta100 - MNBA - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes Santiago Chile, Santiago


Matta 1911-2011 - Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao


Latitudes, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, Sao Paulo, Brazil


Descubritorio Matta, Museo de Artes Visuales, Santiago, Chile (solo)


Gravures: Roberto Matta, Galerie Renee Ziegler, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)


Roberto Matta, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC (solo) Matta, Malingue, Paris, France (solo) Matta: Making the Invisible Visible, McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA (solo)


Matta 1938-1971, Galleria de'Foscherari, Bologna, Italy (solo)


Matta in America: Paintings and Drawings of the 1940s, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (solo)


Matta: Oper Dal 1957 al 1993, Galleria Patrizia Poggi, Ravenna, Italy (solo) Matta El Ano de los Tres 000, Fundacion Telefonica, Santiago, Chile (solo)


Matta, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (solo) Borges Cultural Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina (solo)


Matta: Surrealism and Beyond, Haggerty Museum of Art, Chicago, IL (solo)


Roberto Matta: Paintings and Drawings 1937-1959, Galeria Lopez Quiroga, Mexico City, Mexico (solo) Matta: Paintings and Drawings, Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, NY (solo) Matta: Re-generation, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida (solo) Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Transparency in the Art of the 20th Century, Musee des Beaux-Arts Andre Malraux, Le Havre, France


Matta: Engravings, Galeria Arte Actual, Santiago, Chile (solo) Matta: Works from Chicago Collections, Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL (solo)


Crosscurrents of Modernism: Four Latin American Pioneers, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC


matta Exhibition: One verse 11-11-11, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile (solo)


Matta: Drawings 1937-1946, Acquavella Contemporary Art, New York, NY (solo)


Aspects of Modern Art in France, Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris, France


Matta: Drawings 1937-88, Museum Bochum, Germany (solo) Italy Matta: Matta in Italy, Palazzo Venezia, Rome, Italy (solo) Matta: The Early Years, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (solo)


The Logic of Hallucination [Drawings], Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (solo) Artistic Collaboration in the Twentieth Century, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC


60 Works: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY


Graphics, American Academy of Rome, Rome, Italy (solo) A New Spirit in Painting, Royal Academy of Art, London, UK


Hom'mere (Etchings), Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge University, Cambridge, MA (solo)


Homage aux Pyrénées, Château de Castellnou, Castellnou (solo)


A Totemic World, Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture, Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York, NY Pastelli, L'Homme Descend du Signe, Galleria dell'Oca, Rome, Italy (solo) Surrealism, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan


The Early Years: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings from the Years 1939 - 1957, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York, NY (solo)


Sebastian Matta/dipinti, disegni e incisioni 1957 - 1973, Galleria Schubert, Milan, Italy (solo)


In the Space of a Chilean Week, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre, France (solo)


Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturebesitz, Berlin, Germany (solo)


The Revolution is Architecture, Centre Culturel Municipal, Villeparisis, France (solo)


Painting in France 1900 - 1967, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC


Galeria Latinoamerica, Casa de las Americas, Havana, Cuba (solo) Matta, Being with, Saint Denis, France


La Llave de los Campos, Galeria del Techo, Caracas, Venezuela The Open Cube, Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, Switzerland (solo)


Sebastian Matta: Mostra Antologica in Bologna, Museo Civico, Bologne (solo) Within the Easel Convention: Sources of Abstract-Expressionism, The Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA


Drawings, Pastels and Paintings, Allan Frumlin Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo) Art Since 1950, American and International, Seattle World's Fair, Seattle, WA


Sculptures by Matta, Galerie du Dragon, Paris, France (solo)


15 Forms of Doubting, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (solo) Retrospective, Stockholm, Sweden


50 Ans d'Art Moderne, Palais International des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium


Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)


Matta of Chile, Pan American Union, Washington, DC (solo)


Designs by Matta, Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris, France (solo)


L'Ouvre du XXe siècle, Peintures, Sculptures, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France


Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK (solo)


40,000 Years of Modern Art, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK


Matta (Preface by Andre Breton), Galerie René Drouin, Paris, France (solo) Fifty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture: Abstract and Surrealist American Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL


Twelve Contemporary Painters, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY


War and the Artist, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, NY


Oils, Pencils and Paintings, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (solo) Peggy Guggenheim's Collection of Paintings, Sculpture, Collages, Drawings, Objects and Photography...Pioneer Art Movement, Art of this Century Gallery, New York, NY


Tchelitchew, Matta and Walt Disney, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY


Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France




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