When, in 1990, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía organised the major exhibition Antoni Tàpies. Extensiones de la realidad, Antoni Tàpies’ (Barcelona 1923-2012) work was presented emphasising the three-dimensional work of the artist, from a selection of objects, sculptures, works on paper and cardboard. This exhibition now is therefore the second major exhibition on Tàpies at the Museo Reina Sofía which consists of a selection of sixteen pieces by the artist, set in parallel at the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos.
Unlike the 1990 exhibition, this event shows Tàpies’ work primarily as a painter since 1943. This retrospective is composed of ninety works among which are some of the artist's most emblematic productions such as Barniz con formas negras (1959), Forma de crucificado (1959), Materia (1962), Pisadas sobre cama marrón (1966) or Puerta metálica con violín (1965). This last one, along with Mesa de despacho con paja (1970) are the only compositions at the exhibition which do not have objects. The rest are incorporated into the paintings themselves.
The show begins with a series of self-made portraits produced with pen or pencil on paper and canvas from the Forties. The works made before 1953 are characterised by the constant presence of the face, with irregular surfaces and less significant than those developed after 1954. Starting from then, texture is the protagonist and the canvas begins to show marks and interventions. Graphic signs that emphasise the quality of walls, either in a literal, metaphorical or nominal sense appear.
Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque already begin to experiment in the early 1910s with materials in paint by adding sawdust and grit to their cubist works. The artists André Masson, Joan Miró, Jean Dubuffet and Jean Fautrier use similar methods but, unlike them, Tàpies does not see his work as a circumstantial experiment, but as a language whose ultimate aim is the understanding of structural matter itself.
In the Catalan painter’s work there is a concern to transcend the painting, a metaphysical intent and a desire to discover the nature of the materials, to transform the substances and give meaning to life. Its additive technique and the obsessive repetition of a small number of objects and reasons, such as chairs, doors, windows, slippers, feet, etc. add to the calligraphy and signs, especially the crosses or the initials "A" and "T".
In Autorretrato (1947) a mystical Tàpies is seen, surrounded by zodiac signs and with his hands on his chest before an altar. This aspect alluding to the healing powers of art is one facet that his work develops over time. His painting’s phases during the sixty years of production have been adequately reflected by Manuel Borja-Villel director of the Antoni Tàpies Foundation at the Museum in Barcelona between 1990 and 1998, curator of the exhibition and expert on the artist's work.
Tàpies receives the Príncipe de Asturias Award for the Arts in 1990. In addition, for decades the artist is a theorist and populariser of his artistic principles through his production of essays. Without a doubt he is internationally one of the most recognised Spanish artists and a key piece in the History of Spanish Art.
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