Being With (Être Avec)

Roberto Matta (Chilean, Santiago 1911–2002 Civtavecchia, Italy)

Oil on canvas
87 x 180 in. (221 x 457.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, and Gift of The Glickstein Foundation, by exchange, 2003
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    Matta painted this fifteen-foot-long, mural-sized canvas in 1946 while he was living in New York (1939-48). It is a complex labyrinth of architectural structures seen from various perspectives and primitive humanoid figures contorted unnaturally and exploding with sexual exhibitionism. Such imagery drew from Matta's familiarity with architectural design (he worked for Le Corbusier in Paris from 1935 to 1937) and from Surrealism (he joined the Paris group in 1936). Like so many other modern artists who emigrated from Europe to the United States, Matta was physically removed from the horrors of World War II, yet his painting clearly expresses his distress at the state of the world. Unlike his previous Surrealist works (called "psychological morphologies") that looked within and invented visual equivalents for various states of consciousness, his paintings and drawings of the mid to late 1940s (called "social morphologies") attempted to address the broader societal crisis that the artist felt he was a part of, or as the title of this painting suggests, being with. These changes in approach alienated him from the Surrealists, but brought him closer to the nascent Abstract Expressionist group in New York (particularly Robert Motherwell and Arshile Gorky) who were eager to experiment with Surrealist techniques and imagery.

  • Provenance

    [Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1946]; the artist (1946–85); Jeffrey Loria (1985–2003)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Matta," April 11–May 4, 1946.

    Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Large Scale Modern Paintings," April 1–May 4, 1947, no. 19.

    Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Matta," September 10–October 20, 1957, no. 21 ill. pp. 28–9.

    Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Matta," November 15–December 30, 1957, no. 21.

    The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. "Matta," January 18–March 2, 1958, no. 21.

    Musee d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. "Matta," October 3–December 16, 1985, no. 68 ill. pp. 142–3.

    Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. "Matta in America: Paintings and Drawings of the 1940s," July 13–October 20, 2002.

  • References

    William Rubin. "Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition: Part II." Artforum 7 (March 1967), pp.28–37.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History