Artwork Detail

Lambeaux Iron-Oniriques (Iron-Oneiric Scraps)
French, b. Chile, 1911–2002
Pencil and crayon on paper
18 1/16 x 22 1/2 "
University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, March 1946
WU 3788
Chilean-born Roberto Matta was one of the youngest members of the Surrealist group in Paris before he emigrated to New York City in 1939 to escape the onslaught of World War II. As a peer of the artists who would go on to become the Abstract Expressionists, Matta was uniquely positioned to introduce European Surrealist ideas to artists working in New York in the 1940s. He became known for his representations of the human psyche as a three-dimensional environment or abstracted landscape. In the drawing, Lambeaux Iron-Oniriques, fluid organic forms resemble both the microscopic – human cells – as well as the monumental and geological – trees, the sun, and an erupting volcano. Matta often depicted volcanos as a metaphor for the outpouring of explosive internal emotions after he observed the powerful landscapes of Mexico during a 1941 visit. In the mid-1940s his images of humanoid figures engaged in ritual practices or undergoing disturbing bodily transformations reflected his growing concern for the fate of humankind in light of the violence of weaponized technology during World War II. This can be seen in the untitled drawing, in which figures do not interact with one another but with transparent, impenetrable orbs, planes, and structures. [Permanent collection label, 2019]