Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Antoni Tàpies - part 1

This is the first part of a two-part post on the works of Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies. Tàpies was born in 1923 in Barcelona. His adolescence was disrupted by the Spanish Civil War and a serious illness that lasted two years. Tàpies began to study law in Barcelona in 1944 but two years later decided instead to devote himself exclusively to art. He was essentially self-taught as a painter; the few art classes he attended left little impression on him. Shortly after deciding to become an artist, he began attending clandestine meetings of the Blaus, an iconoclastic group of Catalan artists and writers who produced the review Dau al Set.

Tàpies’s early work was influenced by the art of Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró, and by Eastern philosophy. His art was exhibited for the first time in the controversial Salo d’Octubre in Barcelona in 1948. He soon began to develop a recognisable personal style related to matière painting, or Art Informel, a movement that focused on the materials of art-making. The approach resulted in textural richness, but its more important aim was the exploration of the transformative qualities of matter. Tàpies freely adopted bits of detritus, earth, and stone – mediums that evoke solidity and mass – in his large-scale works.

In 1950, his first solo show was held at the Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona, and he was included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. That same year, the French government awarded Tàpies a scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in Paris. His first solo show in New York was presented in 1953 at the gallery of Martha Jackson, who arranged for his work to be shown the following year in various galleries around the United States. During the 1950s and 1960s, Tàpies exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. In 1966, he began his collection of writings, La practica de l’art. In 1969, he and the poet Joan Brossa published their book, Frègoli; a second collaborative effort, Nocturn Matinal, appeared the following year. Tàpies received the Rubens Prize of Siegen, Germany, in 1972.

Retrospective exhibitions were presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1973 and at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, in 1977. The following year, he published his prize-winning autobiography, Memòria personal. In the early 1980s, he continued diversifying his mediums, producing his first ceramic sculptures and designing sets for Jacques Dupin’s play L’Eboulement. By 1992, three volumes of the catalogue raisonné of Tàpies’s work had been published. The following year, he and Cristina Iglesias represented Spain at the Venice Biennale, where his installation was awarded the Leone d’Oro. A retrospective exhibition was presented at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, in 1994-5. In 2000 the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid also organised a major retrospective of the artist’s work. Tàpies lives in Barcelona.


1957 Grey and Green Painting 
oil, epoxy resin, marble dust on canvas

1958 Gran Pintura 
oil and sand on canvas

1958 Grey Ochre 
oil, epoxy resin, marble dust on canvas

1959 Croix sur gris XCVIII 
mixed media on canvas laid on board

1959 Grey Relief on Black 
latex paint and marble dust on canvas

1960 Grey between Brackets 
oil and mixed media on board

1961 Gris Violacé aux Rides 
mixed media on canvas

1961 Relieve negro perorado 
mixed media on canvas

1962 Ocre côn trazos negros superores 
mixed media on canvas

1963 Large Matter with Lateral Papers 
mixed media

1964 Pintura 
mixed media on canvas

1968 Journal 
lithograph

1968 L'Enveloppe 
lithograph

1973 Foll 
lithograph

1974 Cartes per la Teresa (472) 
lithograph and collage

1975 L'arc 
etching and opaque white

1975 Llambrec Material 
lithograph

1976 Negre i roig III, Fora 
etching

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