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    David Ebony's Top Ten

Antoni Tàpies at PaceWildenstein
Sinuous i clau
Ventall i ous
Antoni Tąpies has not had a major exhibition in New York since 1995, when a gallery show of recent works coincided with a rather listless Guggenheim Museum survey. In his current exhibition of recent paintings and sculptures, Tąpies is back in top form. Long recognized as one of Europe's most important practitioners of "matter painting," the Catalan artist has influenced several generations of painters and sculptors. In recent years, he sometimes seems to repeat himself, but Tąpies "doing Tąpies" is always far more interesting than the best work of his imitators.

Gearing up for his major touring retrospective, which opens at the Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia, in Madrid on Mar. 7, 2000, Tąpies presents in New York some large panels made with his trademark materials -- sand and oil paint on wood -- and a group of sculptures made of bronze and earthy substances like straw, rope and burlap.

Among the outstanding works on view is Sinuous i clau, featuring passages of thick red paint spread with a wide comb-like tool across the panel in sensuous waves. Areas of black spray paint add shadowy depth to the surface while graffiti scrawls give it a sense of urgency. An antique key attached to the panel becomes a poetic device, suggesting a door that might lead to a secret place and time. The black "x" in this work, and others on view, is, of course, a sideways "t" -- the artist's initial, not a crucifix.

Ventall il ous is an elegant sculptural still-life made of a dark bronze fan and three white plaster eggs. The fan is fully open and placed on a sculpture stand. Two eggs rest on the fan, while the third is attached to a metal rod. This work, as well as a number of others on view, suggests a cosmic allegory of birth and rebirth, but its meaning remains obscure.

Antoni Tąpies at PaceWildenstein, Jan. 14-Feb. 12, 2000, 32 E. 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.