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Roberto Matta



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Born in Chile but active in France, the United States, and later Italy, Roberto Matta was associated with the international Surrealist movement during the 1930s and 1940s. As an exile in the US during and after World War II, his semi-abstract paintings acted as a conduit for the emergence of Abstract Expressionism. In the early 1940s the artist became interested in creating a biomorphic form of Surrealism that would explore paradoxically both internal psychological formations and social and political conditions. Though painted nearly fifteen years
after the end of the war, Abstraction exhibits many concerns of that era, including the atrocities of war and genocide, the anxieties of the atomic age, and the alienation of humanity in a mechanized, technological world. With its combination of vaguely humanoid figures disturbingly synthesized from organic and mechanical forms, Abstraction posits the idea of violence as a perpetual condition. The spindly, elastic yellow figures appear to be engaged in acts of brutality on a gray, pulsating field and allude to futuristic mechanized weapons, though filtered through a mixture of blended and rubbed color passages suggesting a hazy revelation, memory, or dream. [Permanent collection label, 2023]

  • Artist Roberto Matta (French, b. Chile, 1911–2002)
  • Title Abstraction
  • Date 1959–60
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions unframed | 58 x 80 in.
  • Credit line Gift of Mrs. Mark C. Steinberg, 1967
  • Object number WU 4367

The Body in Pieces
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 02/16/2024 - 04/15/2024

From Picasso to Fontana: Collecting Modern and Postwar Art in the Eisendrath Years, 1960–1968
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/23/2015 - 04/19/2015

Gesture, Scrape, Combine, Calculate: Postwar Abstraction from the Permanent Collection
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 08/20/2010 - 09/20/2010

Cubist, Expressionist, and Surrealist Paintings and Sculptures

Mrs. Mark C. Steinberg, St. Louis

Inscription Recto, lower right, in black paint: Matta

This artwork record may be incomplete or need refinement. Our staff actively researches the collection and revises records when new information is available. If you have questions or comments about this record, please contact us.