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Tàpies. Comunicació sobre el mur

Since Antoni Tàpies began painting in the forties, his work has been marked by the use of certain particularly expressive materials and textures and a few very somber colors. This tendency became particularly pronounced in 1954-55 when he began producing his matter paintings.

These works, which signalled his maturity as an artist, bear a definite resemblance to walls and are characterized by their rich textures and the use of colors like grey, brown and ochre. The matter paintings caused a great stir in the art world, bringing Tàpies the acclaim of world critics and catapulting him into the front ranks of the international avant-garde movements of the moment.

Although the matter paintings are the best known of Tàpies’ work, they are also among the most misunderstood. With the exhibition Comunicació sobre el mur, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, in coproduction with Valencia’s IVAM, aims to foster the study and analysis of Tàpies’ own work and provide a critical review of this matter paintings. The exhibition focuses on 80 paintings produced between 1954 and 1967. After this he began turning towards the use of objects, a trend which became more pronounced as of 1970. Nevertheless, the matter paintings cannot be classified exclusively as a particular period in the artist’s development. Instead, they are a way of working. This explains why the exhibition includes a series of more recent work that demonstrates how the matter paintings have evolved until the present day.

A number of factors led Tàpies to produce his matter paintings, his “walls”. First of all, he was striving to absorb and go beyond the existing language of art, particularly as expressed by Miró, Klee and Ernst. Secondly, he was affected by a social and political climate marked by the domination of Franco in Spain and the Cold War on the international front. During these years Tàpies was also invloved in experimenting with new materials, shaping new instruments, flirting with chance. Interest in material as such was widespread during the postwar years and influenced a great number of artists on both sides of the Atlantic. The atom bomb and other new sicentific discoveries opened people’s eyes to the importance of science and matter and Tàpies was no exception. Last but not least, his own personal and daily experiences, his artist’s psychology led him on a constant search that resulted in the first matter paintings. “Walls” covered with graffiti or carvings that contained clear references to Surrealism, autobiographical reminiscences and openly subversive meanings.

The work shown has been borrowed from public and privately-owned collections throughout the world and the technical qualities of the paintings are such that it would be very difficult to again gather them in a single exhibition. The catalogue, with texts by Serge Guilbaut and Manuel J. Borja-Villel, contains eighty-three color reproductions and is an excellent guide to the origins and development of Antoni Tàpies’ matter paintings as well as a critical review of previous interpretations of his work.