Ashes to Dust “Tàpies: From Within”

By Adrianna Vidal

Pictured: Transfiguracio (Transfiguration) 1994

Antoni Tàpies, self-taught artist, writer, and poet, was a nonconformist and unsurprisingly, so was his artwork. Building an entire career on rebellion against the conventional ideals of artistry, Tàpies’ left the world with a collection of abstract artworks that are both simplistic and wildly provocative.

Gaze at Antoni Tàpies’ paintings of immeasurable depth at the newly opened Perez Art Museum exhibit ‘Tàpies: From Within’.

Tàpies: From Within explores the Spanish artist’s use of materials and the development of his unique visual language, which earned him an international reputation as one of the most successful abstract painters of his generation. Although several of Antonie Tàpies’ paintings were never sold due to their “provocative and non-commercial nature” this made him all that more proud of the legacy he was creating and his remarkable style remains unmatched.

In his early life, while living in Barcelona, Tàpies witnessed the aftermath of World War I, the Spanish Civil war, World War II, and the annihilation of the atomic bomb. Such events inspired Tapies to begin creating matter paintings. These artworks, created using downtrodden materials like marble, untreated wood, glue, dust, sand, and mud, are rich with unique textures that create incredible depth.

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Tàpies’ textures went beyond the impressionist tendency of layering thick paint, giving his artworks an earthy, tangible quality. His work breathes new life to the seemingly mundane found objects like random garments of clothing, shoes that he’s worn, table napkins, and dishes, by incorporating them as key elements the work. My personal favorite piece, “Infiniti” looked like a cold square of gray. Upon closer inspection, the seemingly blank canvas stirred with life. The marble dust in the painting gleams like a starlit sea. The urge to reach out a hand and touch it is almost unavoidable. You could just sink into the calm, hypnotic, dazzling infinity. Despite all of the destruction Tapies witnessed, he never stopped believing in the mystical values of the ordinary. Whether it was a handful or sand or a house slipper, everything had an incredible, unknowable, possibly infinite meaning to Antoni Tàpies and it certainly comes across in this retrospective exhibition.

PAMM will be open to the public on Presidents Day — Monday, February 16, 10am–6pm, with free museum admission to all visitors who arrive by free Metromover. Free tour of Tàpies: From Within at noon and free tours in Spanish every Saturday at noon.

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Curated by former Tate Director Vincente Todolí, this retrospective offers a unique view into Tàpies’ groundbreaking practice, which fused impoverished materials with symbols of Eastern and Western culture to create dense works covered with graffiti-like gestures. His alchemical practice mixed spiritual and existential questions with unique material investigations of surface, mark-making and found objects. For more information, visit: Pamm.org.