The purpose of this retrospective exhibition is to contextualise Antoni Tàpies' (Barcelona, 1923-2012) vast productions of sculptures and objects throughout his career, insisting on the unity and insolubility of all his work. For this, all works have been collected that were produced between 1946 and 1990 and which have as a common denominator the assemblage (assembly) as a process and technique, something which serves to support the three objectives of the exhibition, in the words of Gloria Moure, curator of the exhibition: "It highlights the radical, the compactness and the contemporaneity of Tàpies' work."
The exhibition begins with his early works that confirm the use of a new plastic grammar, which Tàpies uses for metapictorial works and, in turn, confirms his break with the traditional hegemony of the canvas as the only valid surface for painting. These works, which are produced with sand, string, wire, cardboard and a variety of paper, are the starting point of a new poetic definition of materials that are developed in later works. The enunciation of this poetry and its artistic translation could be summarised in the following three items: debris and their manipulation (recognition of the artist's hand); transgression of traditional perception and representation; and a new concept of the artist. All these aspects together, form the guiding principle of his work: the consideration of materiality of objects in ordinary life as artistic material, which is also the embodiment of life in art.
Tàpies is welcomed early onto the international scene thanks to rapid recognition of his work by critics and contemporary historiography: Michel Tapié includes it within the European informalism theorised by him in 1952, and a year later established a commercial link with the American gallerist Martha Jackson. Because of his work and his processes, he is placed on the side of reaction to Abstract Expressionism idealism, along with names such as Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Dine, Yves Klein and the Arte Povera artists. However, at that time he differs from these latter artists regarding the value he gave to the use of materials and objects. To Tàpies, manipulation of those materials and objects meant leaving his mark on them, his presence in the artistic process. Precisely because of this position he is linked with other practices and artists like Joseph Beuys as they both identified with their objects. Derived from this phenomenon of identification and the transfer of art-life, Tàpies made the recurring objects he uses in his works (plates, sheets, bed frames, mattresses, cabinets, sinks, towels, trousers, metal doors, etc...) elements of his biography. Furthermore, the objects themselves are left with a symbolic value, either by a sense of humble transcendence (in this case, there is an influence of Eastern thought and Zen), or as allusions to the current Spanish political and social reality at the time the works were produced.