Copyright 2000 www.cosmopolis.ch Louis Gerber All rights
Antoni Tāpies The retrospective
Haus der Kunst (Munich)
May 26 - August 13, 2000
The museum Haus der Kunst, Munich, in
collaboration with the Museo Nacional
Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, is showing the most comprehensive Antoni
Tāpies retrospective yet. Ninety paintings and objects from public and private
collections offer an unprecedented view over the Catalan's body of work, from
the mid-1940s with his first self-portraits and collages to his recent paintings
such as Earth picture (1999) and Complement
(1999), which is to find on the catalogue's cover.
Central to Antoni Tāpies' work is the
treatment of texture and material, but he refuses the formal analysis of
the aesthetic possibilities - although the beauty of his paintings cannot
be denied. He concentrates on the search of magic properties and their
transformation potential. His art is, among others, influenced by Raimundus
Lullus, a universal scholar from the Middle Ages. Tāpies uses the
combinatorial analysis of Lullus in a playful way. He not only appreciates
the mystic, but also the philosopher, poet and scientist Lullus. Tāpies
uses the mystic letters, symbols and even the name "Llull"
appears in his works and in their titles. However, the signs' meaning can
rarely be identified. They seem to have been introduced for aesthetic
Among Tāpies' characteristic calligraphic signs are
the initials "A" and "T" as well as the cross, which
appears in all shapes and forms. The artist considers himself a shaman and
alchemist who understands the nature and secrets of materials, who can
alter substances and give a meaning to life. Many of his works remind us
of votive pictures of the Middle Ages which are supposed to have healing
The agnostic and sceptic Tāpies found his
distinctive style in 1954 over the exploration of surrealism. He refuses
the notion of abstract painting since he does not accept any limitation in
art, which, of course, means no return to figurative painting.
Tāpies explains the absence of primary colors in his work with a surfeit,
a repletion of colors around him and in advertising. He says to suffer
from a primary colors allergy. Moreover, he considers that the colors he
found and uses express best the mystic he is looking for and that they
have a deeper meaning.
His works are full of elements of ordinary
life, including trash. In this respect, Tāpies
is close to the generation of artists who revolted themselves against
abstract expressionism. His aesthetic values and means are closely related
to existentialism. Among them is the principle of repetition, an
everlasting questioning. Objects of ordinary life in his art, such as
boxes, a bed or (as on the right) a Desk with straw are the
expression of his close relation with Zen-Buddhism. For Tapičs art has a
ritual character and has to change awareness, consciousness. Therefore, he
constantly repeats a series of symbols, images and objects.
Tāpies also deals with impossibility.
Repeatedly, he indicated that his art is a kind of game, a trap observers have
to realize and accept, in order to let it work.
Tāpies often paints crosses or symbols on the objects in his paintings,
which allows him to lift their "authenticity", their character of
objects. According to the curators, they organized the retrospective in Munich
around this central element of impossibility and ambiguity in the work of the
Catalan artist Antoni Tāpies.
Catalogue (in German): Antoni Tāpies - Die Retrospektive. Haus der
Munich, in collaboration with Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Aldeasa, Madrid. With essays by Peter Bürger,
Alexander G. Düttman, Antoni Tāpies, John C. Welchman and a preface by Manuel J.
Antoni Tāpies, Manuel J. Borja-Villel, John C. Welchman, Alexander G.
Duttman: Tāpies. Hardcover, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina
Sofia and Aldeasa, 2001, 352 p. ISBN: 8480039655. Get it from Amazon.com.
Antoni Tapies, Anna Agusti (Editor): Tāpies: obra completa, volumen 5,
1982-1985. Hardcover, Rizzoli International Publications, 1999, 504 p.
ISBN: 8488786417. Get it from Amazon.com.
Andreas Franzke: Antoni Tāpies, Prestel, 1992. Get it from Amazon.de.
Barbara Catoir: Gespräche mit Antoni Tāpies, Prestel, 1996. In German,
get it from Amazon.de.