Antoni Tàpies Chaises (Chairs) 1981

  • Not on view

Although he has achieved renown throughout the international art world, Antoni Tàpies has remained in his native Barcelona, maintaining ties to his Catalan heritage. A teenager during the Spanish Civil War, he suffered from the isolation and repression of the Franco years but found recognition in the 1950s as part of Art informel, a European movement paralleling Abstract Expressionism in America. Termed "matter painting," his work was noteworthy for thick, furrowed surfaces of sand, varnish, marble dust, and latex. This interest in audacious materials has continued, but Tàpies enriched his visual language in the ensuing decades to also include indications of cryptic writing, everyday objects, and a human presence.

Tàpies's involvement with printmaking came at the invitation of several publishers, and he welcomed the new techniques it involved and the relationships he established with master craftsmen in printshops. He immediately sought to challenge the flatness of paper by adding such elements as straw and flocking, by tearing his sheets, and by creating surface indentations with carborundum or embossing. The large-scale Chairs represents the nature of the abstraction, imbued with shifting meanings, that has become his hallmark. Here calligraphic signs are transformed into furniture and then anthropomorphized into communicating protagonists.

Tàpies has created some fifteen hundred printed images and also given sustained attention to illustrating books, creating some thirty-five volumes in collaboration with a range of contemporary poets. This is not surprising given the fact that he is an avid reader, essay writer, and committed bibliophile whose library rivals his painting studio as a center of his life. He has said that Anular is among his favorite books. He admires the physicality of its accordion format and the syncopation it creates from the combination of his own signs and symbols, the poetic phrases of author José-Miguel Ullán, and the old Spanish constitution that forms a backdrop.

Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 142.
composition: 36 1/4 x 54 3/4" (92 x 139 cm); sheet: 36 5/8 x 54 3/4" (93 x 139 cm)
Galerie Lelong, Paris
Joan Barbarà, Barcelona
Anonymous gift
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Drawings and Prints

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