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Back to Reviews 97

Oceame, 1996,
oil on canvas,
68 x 93 in.

david ebony's
new york top ten

at maxwell davidson

Mar. 25-Apr. 26, 1997

Since de Kooning has passed away, who is the world's greatest living painter? More than a few people would answer "Matta," the artist born in Chile, who is one of the few survivors of the original Surrealist group. His first creative impulse was as an architect, but he turned to painting in the '30s while living in Europe. Dalí and Garcia Lorca introduced him to André Breton, who invited the young artist to illustrate the last Surrealist Manifesto.

Now an 86-year-old resident of Mexico, Roberto Matta is painting with a vitality, if not fury, that would probably exhaust most 26- year-olds. In each of the nine recent, large-scale works on view here, Matta continues his eloquent exploration of light and space. Looking at a Matta painting is like peering into a telescope and a microscope simultaneously.

The psychedelic colors and wild gestures in canvases such as Selfnity and Oceame help the artist bring his vision of the microcosm and macrocosm to life. The Wols-ish Countrepoint de la Luminere and the brilliant red Inside Light, demonstrate Matta's seemingly effortless manipulation of textures and translucent layers of color, which convey a contradictory sense of airy depth and surface grit. When Matta describes figures, the results may seem like imaginative space aliens. They are, however, very human, in fact, some are self- portraits.

Ultimately, Matta is an idealist. In all of the works on view here, he exudes a passionate love for this planet, for humankind, and for painting. "Art is a desire to exist in the universe because we are made of the same atoms as the stars," he says in the show's catalogue. "When a star dies, it dies in light--giving light; and I believe that the death of a human being is somehow similar, except that we do not have photographs of such light."