Design 1985

Design 1985
Roberto Matta (Chilean, 1911-2002)
color ink on Arches paper 
overall: 17-9/16 x 12-13/16 in. (44.6 x 32.6 cm); image: 9-7/16 x 6-7/8 in. (24 x 17.5 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Terry and Sharon Bridges 
Accession Number:
© Estate of Roberto Matta 
Not on View

Throughout his career, Roberto Matta explored illusionistic space. Considered one of the great surrealists and a mentor to the abstract expressionists, Matta ultimately went beyond both movements, motivated by his social and political convictions to abandon pure abstraction. Key to Matta’s success was his ability to develop his own artistic vocabulary and in the process blend profound introspection with a deep sense of social consciousness. Design 1985 is from the latter part of Matta’s career. The artist has floated seemingly random machine-like objects on a blue and pink surface. The movement of gentle currents is indicated by lines trailing off some of the objects and nuanced color shading. The gradation of colors from pink to blue suggests the meeting of sky and water, and the circular shape in the pink background appears to be a rising or setting sun. The objects in the water touch each other but do not actually fit together. They are both architectural and totemic in appearance—a common feature of Matta’s work. Though their purpose is not entirely clear, the juxtaposition of mechanical and natural elements creates a tension, perhaps an allusion to twentieth-century anxieties about technology.

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