Summary of Roberto Matta
Chilean-born artist Roberto Matta was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American, and Latin American cultures. As a member of the Surrealist movement and an early mentor to several Abstract Expressionists, Matta broke with both groups to pursue a highly personal artistic vision. His mature work blended abstraction, figuration, and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes. Matta's long and prolific career was defined by a strong social conscience and an intense exploration of his internal and external worlds.
- Matta broke with the conventions of the Surrealist movement by adding a dimension of social and political awareness to his work.
- Matta often supplemented an aesthetic of pure abstraction with elements of figuration and precisely rendered, though fantastically conceived, three-dimensional space.
- Matta's exploration of the unconscious mind through a symbolic language of abstract forms greatly influenced the early development Abstract Expressionism.
Biography of Roberto Matta
Known primarily as 'Matta,' Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurren was born in Santiago, Chile on November 11th, 1912. The son of a Chilean father and a Spanish mother, Matta grew up in a strictly Catholic, upper middle-class home. His mother was well read and highly cultured, fostering Matta's interest in art, literature, and languages. He received a classical, Jesuit education, and enjoyed a comfortable childhood during a period of widespread economic hardship in Chile.
Important Art by Roberto Matta
Cruxificion marks not only Matta's first foray into oil painting, but also the start of what he called his Psychological Morphologies. While it has been suggested that the main forms in this painting represent Jesus and Mary, what is most striking about this work is its abstraction. The painting was created using the Surrealist practice of automatism. Matta utilized this technique as a means to depict a constantly transforming, multi-dimensional time and space. He believed that this allowed for a vision of reality that existed beyond the limits of normal human perception.
Matta produced The Earth is a Man after being greatly affected by the dramatic landscape during a trip through Mexico in 1941. The painting depicts the earth as a volatile and constantly evolving space. The composition is dominated by what appears to be either an exploding sun or erupting volcano in the left center of the piece. For Matta, this symbolized a personal outpouring of emotions and ideas. Volcanoes also appeared in several other works from this period, such as Invasion of the Night (1941) and Ecouter vivre (1941). Interestingly, The Earth is a Man shares its name with an epic poem Matta composed in 1936 to commemorate Frederico Garcia Lorca's violent death.
As one of Matta's "Social Morphology" paintings, Being With (Etre Avec) represents a direct response to the horrors of the Second World War. Matta's deep-seated dismay finds expression in the menacing mechanical contraptions and the contorted, violently violated humanoid forms that populate the painting. The figures here are reminiscent of both totemic art and Alberto Giacometti's sculptures. Furthermore, the influence of the contemporary Mexican muralists can be seen in this work's increased scale, at 87 x 180 inches, and Matta's explicit engagement with social issues.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Roberto Matta
- Transmission: The Art of Matta And Gordon Matta-ClarkBy Briony Fer, Betti-Sue Hertz, Pastor Mellado, and Anthony Vidler
- Matta: Surrealism and beyondOur PickBy Curtis L. Carter
- Matta: A Centennial CelebrationBy Roberto Matta and Justin Spring
- Roberto Matta: Paintings & Drawings, 1937-1959By Martica Sawin
- Matta in America: Paintings and Drawings of the 1940sOur PickBy Elizabeth A.T. Smith, Colette Dartnall, and William Rubin
- Matta: Five Decades of PaintingBy Valery Oisteanu / The Brooklyn Rail / March 6, 2009
- Matta: The Early Years, 1937 to 1959Our PickBy Martica Sawin / Latin American Masters / 2009
- Matta's Genius is Revealed in 'Paintings and Drawings'By William Wilson / The Los Angeles Times / May 9, 1997
- The Otherworldly World of Roberto MattaOur PickBy John Russell / The New York Times / February 7, 1986
- Art: Matta Paintings And Drawings Of 1937-47By John Russell / The New York Times / November 27, 1981