NEW YORK, NY.- Dia Art Foundation
presents a special exhibition of work by Antoni Tàpies, one of Spain’s most important and prolific postwar artists, on view at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries from May 16 through October 19, 2009. Antoni Tàpies: The Resources of Rhetoric represents a rare opportunity for viewers to see a significant show of the artist’s early work at a museum in the United States.
The exhibition has been curated by Tàpies scholar Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reína Sofía in Madrid (Museo Reína Sofía) and former director of the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona. It initiates a series of institutional exchanges between Dia and the Museo Reina Sofía, Spain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art.
Comprising approximately twenty major large-scale works, Antoni Tàpies: The Resources of Rhetoric draws from the Reina Sofía’s exceptional collection, as well as the collections of the Foundacio Tàpies and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. It provides a focused view of this venerable artist’s work during the crucial decades of the 1950s and 1960s, which is contextualized by key paintings from other periods. In those decades, Tàpies developed the language and signature iconography—informed by the political upheavals of his native Spain—that would continue to shape his practice. During the same period, he began to use unconventional materials and media, mixing traditional paints with such purposefully commonplace materials as sand, ash, marble powder, paper, cloth, and string. Typically called “matter paintings,” these pieces are notable for their vocabulary of gestural form and their thickly worked, scraped, torn, and incised surfaces. Together, the works shed light on Tàpies’s growing commitment to addressing contemporary political and social issues, especially in relation to his Catalan heritage.
In addition, by placing these innovative paintings in the galleries of Dia:Beacon, Antoni Tàpies: The Resources of Rhetoric enables visitors to reconsider Tàpies’s work in relation to Dia’s collection of American and German art dating from the 1960s to the present. For instance, in their use of symbolic motifs and iconic symbols, notable parallels can be traced with works by Joseph Beuys. Using materials such as felt, rubber, and copper, Beuys’s installations, including those on view at Dia:Beacon, evidence a similar belief in the transformative potential of particular materials.
Antoni Tàpies: The Resources of Rhetoric will further reveal the artist’s sustained exploration of pictorial surfaces. On occasion, he approaches the canvas as a palimpsest, to be inscribed with text. Elsewhere, he treats it like a body, the marks functioning as abrasions on skin. Such approaches to the surface of the canvas and mark-making recall the work of the American artist Cy Twombly, whose paintings are on long-term view at the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection, Houston, a collaboration among the artist, Dia, and the Menil.
Antoni Tàpies was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1923 into a family of booksellers and Catalan nationalist politicians. During protracted periods of illness in his adolescence, he began drawing and developing a serious interest in literature. After abandoning his studies of law at Barcelona University in 1944, he began to work as an artist, establishing his studio in Barcelona. Tàpies first exhibited his work in the late 1940s, in Barcelona. He had his first solo exhibition in 1950 at Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona, and his first New York solo exhibition in 1953 at Martha Jackson Gallery. He first traveled abroad, to Paris, in 1951, where he met Picasso, and in 1953 he visited New York, where he met Willem de Kooning, Franz Klein, Robert Motherwell, and Hans Hoffman. In 1984, he established the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona.
Retrospective surveys of his work have been presented at venues including the Kestner-Geselschaft, Hannover, Germany (1962); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1962); the Kunsthaus Zurich (1962); the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna (1968); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1973); Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (1977); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1980); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf (1989); and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2000). In 1993, Tàpies and Cristina Iglesias represented Spain at the 45th Venice Biennale. Tàpies lives and works in Barcelona.