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Work of the Week: The Earth Is a Man

Greatly affected by the execution of his friend and renowned Spanish poet Federico García Lorca in 1936, Chilean artist Roberto Matta expressed his grief and anger with an experimental screenplay entitled The Earth Is a Man. The emotional, apocalyptic text became the principal source of Matta’s highly conceptual paintings over the next five years, culminating with this piece of the same name.

Adopting a technique of psychic automatism developed by the Surrealists, Matta aimed to visually represent various states of consciousness in his paintings, calling the often turbulent forms “Inscapes” or “Psychological Morphologies.” The Earth Is a Man features apocalyptic imagery—an exploding sun, a gaseous atmosphere–symbolizing the formative and destructive forces of nature. The canvas almost vibrates with nervous energy, its vaporous washes of spilled and wiped paint spawning violent monsters and its small areas of scraped pigment flashing with fiery color. His style profoundly influenced American Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell.

Visit The Earth Is a Man, on view in Gallery 398C.


Roberto Matta. The Earth Is a Man, 1942. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro (after her death, dedicated to the memory of Jory Shapiro by her husband). © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.