Published: March 16, 2004
This winter, the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present “Matta: Making the Invisible Visible” – the first exhibition to critically focus on the artist’s claim to having made the “invisible visible,” and to “make visible” the Latin American influences that lend his work its distinct aesthetic.
On display through May 24, this exclusive presentation will include works from private collections rarely exhibited and the public debut of some of the artist’s drawings.
Of Latin American heritage and regarded as a master of Surrealism, Roberto Sebastian Antonio Matta Echaurren (1912-2002) achieved what few artists from his region had accomplished before him: international status and acclaim. After his death in November 2002, his native country, Chile, observed three days of national mourning.
Spanning the six decades of Matta’s artistic production, the McMullen Museum retrospective is the first since the artist’s death. It will present 33 major paintings and 16 of his finest drawings – including three important drawings from the late 1930s and mid-1940s owned by the artist’s first wife, which have never before been exhibited to the public. It also will include three key sculptures.
Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, and educated by the Jesuits, Matta left for Spain in his early 20s to explore his ancestral roots. Living an itinerant life in North and South American, as well as Europe, Matta established connections with many renowned writers and artists of the Twentieth Century. Exhibited in major museums worldwide, Matta is usually presented as a “European” painter, based on his time spent in Italy and Paris.
The exhibition and accompanying scholarly catalog, edited by literary scholar Elizabeth Goizueta, a part-time faculty member in BC’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department who serves as principal curator, explore the symbiotic relationship between Matta and important Spanish and Latin American literary figures, the artist’s visualization of psychological and religious themes, his unique position within the development of modern art, as well as the reception of his work.
“Matta is recognized as one of the preeminent Latin American artists of the Twentieth Century,” Goizueta said. “This exhibition is unique in that it explores the multiple intellectual and cultural influences on Matta’s artistic vision.”
The exhibition is installed chronologically, beginning with the artist’s well-known European period in the late 1930s. This first section will highlight morphological works and will investigate how Matta grappled with the psyche and invented a visual language to evoke the subconscious.
The second section will focus on Matta’s time in New York City, demonstrating the artist’s shift from personal psychological “inscapes” to external landscapes. It will also examine how Matta reorients his iconography as a result of his growing interest in primitive and pre-Columbian art. The new figurative iconography is present in his depictions of the political horrors of World War II. Drawings and paintings of his creative phase, filled with humanoids and totemic beings, exemplify Matta’s growing concern with the universal human condition rather than his own psyche. The exhibition will demonstrate how this “Universalism” serves as a transition to the artist’s third period, the 1950s, in which he incorporates figures in a geometric and planar space.
The last section of “Making the Invisible Visible” will exhibit 15 large works created during the last 30 years of the artist’s life – a less studied and exhibited group. This section will critically explore the correlations between the artist’s prewar and postwar works and how they visualize his intense political beliefs, his ongoing fascination with the sciences, and his revolutionary ideas concerning the state of the world. Matta’s paintings of the 1960s and 70s appear as swirling futuristic forms. His final creative period in the 1980s and 90s reveals an artist that has come full circle, discovering a mystical dimension to his concern for humanity.
For information, www.bc.ede/artmuseum or 617-552-8100.
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