Matta (1911-2002)
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Matta (1911-2002)


Matta (1911-2002)
oil on canvas
35 x 52 in. (89 x 132.1 cm.)
Painted in 1944
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Acquavella Galleries, New York.
Yokohama, Museum of Art, Masson et Matta, Les deux univers, April - June 1994, no. 10 (illustrated).
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Germana Matta Ferrari has confirmed the authenticity of the present lot.

'Whatever it is, the punch of dynamic quality of Matta's work gets across to people as unversed in "isms" as they are innocent in the realm of pure reason. Moreover, although Matta feels that the artist should denounce or accuse rather than decorate or entertain, there is a great deal of visual enjoyment simply in the way he handles his medium. The waves of colour are silky smooth. Glowing, palpitating like flames, they appear to pass through each other without mingling' (R. Frost, quoted in G. Ferrari, Matta: Entretiens morphologiques: Notebook No. 1 1936-1944, London, 1987, p. 177).

So wrote Rosamund Frost about Matta's paintings in 1944, the year that he created T. This picture, which presents the viewer with a mysterious, cosmic space across which lightning-like flashes of colour zig and zag, sometimes forming shapes that give a strong sense of perspective, thus creating a sense of depth, of fictive space. The colours appear to glow in parts with a slow, intense fire, while in the centre of the composition, dominating it, is a placard-like area with the letter T painted upon it, presumably giving this work its title. Matta is plunging the viewer into a realm where the old laws no longer apply: instead, this is a glimpse of an alien mentality, of science and machinery that has one foot in the age of technological advances in which he was painting and another in the nonsensical Pataphysics of Alfred Jarry.

Matta had been living in New York for almost half a decade by the time he painted T. He had been one of the first artists to leave France for the United States after the outbreak of the Second World War, having been encouraged by his friend Marcel Duchamp. Matta travelled across the Atlantic on the same ship as Yves Tanguy, a fellow Surrealist. While living in the Village, Matta became a key figure in the avant garde: as a fluent English speaker, he was able to communicate both with the Surrealists who increasingly congregated in New York, many of whom had limited linguistic abilities, and with the New York School that was emerging there. The ideas of the Surrealists, largely communicated through Matta, would come to have a determining effect on this new wave of American artists. In the early 1940s, for instance, Matta had encouraged Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and even Jackson Pollock to explore the automatism that has so clearly been integral to the creation of T. It was during the course of 1944, when T was painted, that Matta saw a great deal of another artist who was to form one of the vital bridges that would lead to the development in subsequent years of Abstract Expressionism, Arshile Gorky. Matta's influence on the Americans had been impressive, and enthusiastically reciprocated, not least when one of his masterpieces, Le vertige d'Eros, also of 1944, was acquired that same year by the Museum of Modern Art.