Matta painted this canvas in 1946 while he was living in New York (1939–48). It depicts a labyrinth of architectural structures seen from various perspectives and contorted humanoid figures engaged in sex acts. This imagery reflects his familiarity with architectural design and Surrealism. Like many artists at the time, Matta expressed distress at the state of the world, one ravaged by World War II. His paintings and drawings of the mid-to-late 1940s (called "social morphologies") address the societal crisis that he felt he was "being with," as the title of this painting suggests. This approach 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.
the artist (1946–85; on consignment to Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1946–ca. 1949; in 1985 to Loria); Jeffrey Loria, New York (1985–2003; sold to MMA)
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Matta," April 11–May 4, 1946, brochure no. 2 (as "Being with").
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Large Scale Modern Paintings," April 1–May 4, 1947, no catalogue (checklist no. 19; as "'Being With,'" lent by the Pierre Matisse Gallery).
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Matta," September 10–October 20, 1957, no. 21.
Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Matta," November 15–December 30, 1957, no. 21.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. "Matta," January 18–March 2, 1958, no. 21.
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "Matta," October 3–December 16, 1985, no. 68.
William Rubin. "Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition, Part I." Artforum 7 (February 1967), pp. 28-37.
"Inside Art: A Big Find For the Met." New York Times (August 1, 2003), p. E30, ill.
Lisa M. Messinger in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2003–2004." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Fall 2004), pp. 40–41, ill. (color).