- Matta, Roberto
▪ 2003Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta EchuarrenChilean-born artist (b. Nov. 11, 1911, Santiago, Chile—d. Nov. 23, 2002, Civitavecchia, Italy), lived his adult life outside his homeland and became identified with the international Surrealist movement. He referred to his paintings, which were huge, often mural-like works, as “inscapes,” the transferal of psychic states to canvas—hence, the description of his art as hallucinatory, nightmarish, and fantastic. Beginning in the mid-1940s, his paintings included humanlike figures, with suggestions of insects and machines, and some critics called his later art visual science fiction. He worked quickly and spontaneously, in what was termed “automatic drawing.” Matta was born into an aristocratic family. He received a diploma in architecture from the Catholic University in Santiago in 1931 and left Chile for Europe two years later. He worked for Le Corbusier in Paris in the mid-1930s, and he traveled throughout the Continent, meeting André Breton and others in the Surrealist movement. By the time he moved to New York City in 1939, he had begun to draw and paint, and in the 1940s he had a significant influence on the Abstract Expressionists. He returned to Europe in 1948, living alternately in Paris and Rome, but from 1969 on his primary home was Italy. A leftist, he was blacklisted in the U.S. in the 1950s, and as a supporter of Pres. Salvador Allende in Chile, he was equally unwelcome in his native country after the military government of Augusto Pinochet came to power in 1973. Among Matta's public works was a mural done in 1956, Three Constellation Beings Facing the Fire, for the UNESCO building in Paris. Retrospectives of his work included exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1957 and at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1985.
* * *▪ Chilean painterin full Roberto Antonio Sebastian Matta Echaurrenborn Nov. 11, 1911, Santiago, Chiledied Nov. 23, 2002, Civitavecchia, ItalyChilean-born painter of mysterious fantastic environments who lived his adult life outside his homeland and became identified with the international Surrealist movement.Matta completed an architecture degree at the Catholic University in Santiago (1931) and moved to Paris in 1933 to work for the influential architect and city planner Le Corbusier (Corbusier, Le). While working in the architect's studio, Matta became increasingly interested in painting. Further, his friendships with the avant-garde in various centres of Europe—Gertrude Stein, Marcel Duchamp, Walter Gropius, Salvador Dalí, Federico Garcia Lorca, André Breton, and others—stimulated his interest in the Surrealist movement, and by 1936 he had abandoned architecture as a career.His stylistic development was rapid. By the time he moved to New York City at age 28, Matta had created a distinctive and visionary vocabulary of biomorphic forms swirling about an eerie and angst-ridden setting. His multidimensional imaginary world was fraught with violent conflict and agitated movement; throughout his life Matta combined the Surrealists' interest in psychic automatism with a predilection for vaguely figural elements caught in states of flux and crisis. Rich in psychological ambiguity, his work reflects the sense of dislocation and anxiety that contributed to the emergence of existentialism after World War II. He was an important influence on artists such as Arshile Gorky (Gorky, Arshile) and Robert Motherwell (Motherwell, Robert). No less a figure than Duchamp considered Matta “the profoundest painter of his generation.” In later years, political activism occupied much of Matta's energies. He made a number series based on the writings of Miguel de Cervantes (Cervantes, Miguel de), Arthur Rimbaud (Rimbaud, Arthur), Alfred Jarry (Jarry, Alfred), and William Shakespeare (Shakespeare, William).
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