Executed in 1963, Arquitectura is filled with life and raw texture. It contains fascinating and intricate contrasts between the controlled formality of the structures and the spontaneity and violence of the application of paint, of the smearing and scratching and teasing. It has a roughness that forces us to appreciate and confront its sheer materiality as an object in its own right, as well as evoking loose thoughts and feelings through the various forms that dominate the canvas.
Arquitectura pays tribute to Tàpies' own interest in architecture. In this he was not at all interested in the sleek and sheer forms of modern architecture but rather by older buildings which reveal their culture and origins and sources and history. Arquitectura, like many of Tàpies' greatest paintings, recalls the appearance of a weathered and battered wall, with an architectural framework within it. It is a celebration not of architecture as a discipline, but rather of the processes of life, the processes of artistic creation, that have taken place before it and within it. Talking about the role of walls in his art, Tàpies pointed to the influence of the Spanish Civil War during his youth, to seeing the new scars on the streets and houses of his native city each day. Walls and the stories that they tell create an open-ended dialogue with their viewer, with the person before them. They introduce infinite subjects, themes, meanings and ideas:
'How many suggestions can be derived from the image of the wall and all its possible permutations! Separation, cloistering, the wailing wall, prison, witness to the passing of time; smooth surfaces, serene and white; tortured surfaces, old and decrepit; signs of human imprints, objects, natural elements; a sense of struggle, of effort; of destruction, cataclysm; or of construction, re-emergence, equilibrium; traces of love, pain, disgust, disorder; the romantic prestige of ruins... the equivalent of sounds, clawings, scrapings, explosions, shots, blows, hammerings, cries, reverberations, echoes in space; meditation on a cosmic theme, reflections for contemplation of the earth, of the magma, of lava, of ash; battlefield; garden; playing field; the destiny of the ephemeral...' (A. Tàpies, quoted in Tàpies in Perspective, exh. cat., Barcelona 2004, p. 79).
In this way, Arquitectura becomes an object of contemplation. It is both more and less than a wall. It is filled with loose associations in the hints at forms and in the evocative textures. It is a universe of swirling and contrasting form and colour providing our eyes with an infinite domain to roam, to let our minds wander, linking it with the Zen tradition that had become so central to Tàpies' art. At the same time, beyond any level of interpretation, it is an accumulation of form and material that in itself contains and celebrates the world of sight and object around us.
Antoni Tàpies (b. 1923)
Oil and sand on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Signed and dated 'Tàpies 1963' (on the reverse)
Jacksonville, Cummer Gallery of Art, 700 years of Spanish Art, 1965, no. 55 (illustrated).
New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, 1968, no. 1 (illustrated).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
64 1/8 x 64 1/8in. (163 x 163cm.)
G. Gatt, Antoni Tàpies, Bologna 1967 (illustrated in colour, pl. 144).
M. Tapié, Antoni Tàpies, Milan 1969, (illustrated, pl. 177).
A. Agusti, Tàpies. The Complete Works Volume 2: 1961-1968, Barcelona 1990, no. 1194 (illustrated in colour, p. 163).
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.
Galerie Beyeler, Basle.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1987.