About the work:
“I am interested only in the unknown and I work for my own astonishment.”
Chilean-born artist Roberto Matta was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American, and Latin American cultures of the 20th century. He was a classically trained architect and moved to Paris in the early 30s to apprentice with famed modernist Le Corbusier. During his two-year tutorship, he met and developed friendships with many of the leading international writers and artists who had made Paris the intellectual capital after World War I.
By 1937, he had moved away from architecture to focus solely on visual arts and became an important member of the Surrealist group. The movement was focally concerned with releasing the potential of the unconscious mind and was acutely disdained with the rational world. While he certainly shared stylistic and intellectual similarities with the Surrealist group, Matta was never able to completely reconcile his strong social conscience with the movement’s inward-looking practices. Instead, Matta balanced his interest in the human psyche with an active engagement with the external world. In the process, he provided early and crucial inspiration for the Abstract Expressionists during the War years, when he lived and worked in New York. Matta eventually broke with both groups to pursue a highly personal artistic vision.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Matta’s ‘Hours of the Day’ series.
Each work in the series is rich with Matta’s classic visual lexicon of blended abstraction, figuration, and multi-dimensional space, forming complex and cosmic landscapes inhabited by anthropomorphic figures. This particular style of Matta’s has been called inscape. Inscape works represent and evoke the human psyche in visual form, as filtered through the writings of Freud and the psychoanalytic view that the mind is three-dimensional.
Each landscape in the series is representative of each hour of the day. This is masterfully accomplished through the different lighting, meant to capture time passing. The etchings are works of expert control, exuberant with color and inventiveness. Although more joyful than many of his earlier works, they continue the artist’s exploration of duality.
Matta’s artistic oeuvre overflows with persistent oppositions: structured architecture and vast cosmos, figuration and abstraction, scientific inquiry and invisible imaginings, social consciousness and interior reflection—all of these complex, sometimes contrary, impulses stem from his international education spanning three continents and a career rich with encounters and friendships.
Matta’s artistic legacy was also a deeply personal one, as four of his six children became notable artists as well. Most celebrated among his progeny was the contemporary artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who followed in his fathers footsteps by creating socially conscious work with a distinctively architectural bent.