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Matta (Chilean 1911-2002)


Matta (Chilean 1911-2002)
titled, dated and signed 'Eupure, Fev. 1944, Matta' (along the back stretcher bar) signed and dated again 'Matta, 44' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
50 x 38 in. (127 x 96.5 cm.)
Painted in 1944.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Acquavella Gallery, New York.
Exhibition catalogue, Matta, Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung and Vienna, Kunsthaus, 1991, p. 42, no. 9 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Masson et Matta. Les Deux Univers, Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art, 1994, no. 9 (illustrated).
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung and Vienna, Kunsthaus, Matta, September 1991- February 1992, no. 9.
Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art, Masson et Matta. Les Deux Univers, April-June 1994, no. 9.

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Jessica Katz
Jessica Katz

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Germana Matta Ferrari and dated 24 September 2009.

"If we admit that we are entering a new world in which there are laws that we do not understand," Matta once reasoned, "in such a world it is the task of the poet and the artist to represent this new physics where we must now live and which is revolutionary."(1) The experience of the Second World War was profoundly unsettling for Matta, and to the psychic hermeticism of his earlier work he began to introduce imagery more deeply existential and cataclysmic in feeling. The artist lived out the war years in New York, serving as a chief conduit between the European Surrealists in exile and the emerging American Abstract Expressionists, who found a powerful imperative in the visionary reach and apocalyptic spectres of his landscapes from the early- to mid-1940s. Epure belongs to a series of paintings that Matta worked on over the first half of the decade called Psychological morphologies (later, Inscapes) that project his internalization of the collective anxiety and psychological shock of the atomic age, almost uncannily prefigured in the vaporous light and fragmented planes of colors that swirl in its infinite, perspectival space.

Matta's paintings spanning the period from roughly 1943 to 1945 resonate on a cosmic scale, conjuring a new iconography of world-consciousness in which strange, astral bodies drift fatefully through agitated and often fantastic spaces. His works from these years, as Elizabeth A. T. Smith and Colette Dartnall have noted, incorporate "a more muted luminosity and a pronounced, clearly architectural indication of structure," a galaxy of shapes that include "both geometric patterns and soft-edged forms, evoking the confines of architecture and the womb as well as the organic and vast nature of the universe." Epure bears a striking familial resemblance to the monumental Le Vertige d'Eros, 1944, one of the defining images of Matta's oeuvre and for which it may have served as a model, as its title suggests. With Le Vertige d'Eros, the more intimately-scaled Epure counts among what Smith and Dartnall consider "the first works in which Matta's focus on floating planes and planetlike shapes becomes central and in which he abandons the horizon line for deep perspective, underscoring a sense of disequilibrium." In the present work, the dynamic, torquing space is held in a liminal state of suspension, its serial striations and sinuous lines rotating around a genital egg shape that hovers mysteriously at its center. "The patterns created by the concentric lines suggest labyrinths, which in turn connote freedom and captivity," according to Smith and Dartnall. "Matta often used such lines in his work to represent the passage of time and the bonds of connection between space, time, and beings."(2)

The cosmic oneness of Matta's universe is sensitively rendered in the spinning, prospecting space of Epure, a moving meditation on the unraveling condition of the contemporary world filtered through the surreal abstractions and deepest recesses of the artist's psyche. The lambent transparencies of its surface impart an eerie glow to the floating planes of color, cast in somber tones of taupe and seal brown; the spindly lines that crisscross the surface, radiating from one space to another, suggest the recessive depths of this universe and its elemental interconnectedness. A metaphor of perpetual evolution, of the shape-shifting forces that create and defy equilibrium, Epure is ultimately a distillation of Matta's universalism, vested in the anguish of his own experience and expressed within the most intimate space of his painting. "Rather than being a cosmonaut," the artist once declared, "I consider myself to a beingonaut," the ultimate traveler in the inner space of human consciousness.(3)

1) Matta, quoted in Roberto Matta: Paintings and Drawings, 1937-1959, Los Angeles: Latin American Masters, 1997, n.p.
2) E. A. T. Smith and C. Dartnall, "'Crushed Jewels, Air, Even Laughter': Matta in the 1940s," in Matta in America: Paintings and Drawings of the 1940s, Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, 22-23.
3) Matta, quoted in Claude Cernuschi, "Mindscapes and Mind Games: Visualizing Thought in the Work of Matta and his Abstract Expressionist Contemporaries," in Matta: Making the Invisible Visible, Boston: McMullen Museum of Art, 2004, 61.

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