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Exclusive Retrospective Of Roberto Matta’s Work—The First Since His Death in 2002—Spans Six Decades

Matta: Making the Invisible Visible
February 1 through May 24, 2004

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (1-12-04) — This winter, the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present Matta: Making the Invisible Visible—the first exhibition to critically focus on the artist’s claim to having made the "invisible visible," and to "make visible" the Latin American influences that lend his work its distinct aesthetic. On display from February 1 through May 24, 2004, this exclusive presentation will include works from private collections rarely exhibited, and the public debut of some of the artist’s drawings (see below).

Of Latin American heritage and regarded as a master of Surrealism, Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren (1912-2002) achieved what few artists from his region had accomplished before him: international status and acclaim. After his death in November 2002, his native country, Chile, observed three days of national mourning.

Spanning the six decades of Matta's artistic production, the McMullen Museum retrospective is the first since the artist's death. It will present 33 major paintings and 16 of his finest drawings—including three important drawings from the late 1930s and mid-1940s owned by the artist's first wife, which have never before been exhibited to the public. It also will include three key sculptures.

"The McMullen Museum is pleased to present, from an innovative and interdisciplinary point of view, this retrospective of some of the best work by one of the twentieth-century's major artists," said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.

Born and raised in Santiago, Chile and educated by the Jesuits, Matta left for Spain in his early twenties to explore his ancestral roots. Living an itinerant life in North and South America as well as Europe, Matta established connections with many renowned writers and artists of the twentieth century. Exhibited in major museums worldwide, Matta is usually presented as a "European" painter, based on his time spent in Italy and Paris.

[MEDIA NOTE: Images from the exhibition are available upon request from the McMullen Museum: call Naomi Blumberg at (617) 552-4676. A complete list of works also is available.]

Opening Events

To commemorate the opening of the exhibition, a black-tie event for invited guests will be held at the McMullen Museum on Saturday, January 31, 2004.

On Tuesday, February 3, the public is invited to join members of the Boston College community at an opening celebration from 7-9 p.m. The event will feature a dessert reception and exhibition viewing, music by BC’s popular jazz band, BC bOp!, and an opening ceremony at 8 p.m. at the McMullen Museum. [Those interested in attending are requested to RSVP by calling (617) 552-8587 or by emailing the Museum at artmusm@bc.edu].

Matta: Making the Invisible Visible

The exhibition and accompanying scholarly catalogue (see below)—which is edited by literary scholar Elizabeth Goizueta, a part-time faculty member in BC’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department who serves as principal curator—explore the symbiotic relationship between Matta and important Spanish and Latin American literary figures, the artist’s visualization of psychological and religious themes, his unique position within the development of modern art, as well as the reception of his work.

"Matta is recognized as one of the pre-eminent Latin American artists of the twentieth century," Goizueta said. "This exhibition is unique in that it explores the multiple intellectual and cultural influences on Matta’s artistic vision."

The exhibition will be installed chronologically, beginning with the artist’s well known European period in the late 1930s. This first section will highlight morphological works and will investigate how Matta grappled with the psyche and invented a visual language to evoke the subconscious.

The second section will focus on Matta’s time in New York City, demonstrating the artist’s shift from personal psychological "inscapes" to external landscapes. It also will examine how Matta reorients his iconography as a result of his growing interest in primitive and pre-Columbian art. The new figurative iconography is present in his depictions of the political horrors of World War II. Drawings and paintings of this creative phase, filled with humanoids and totemic beings, exemplify Matta’s growing concern with the universal human condition rather than his own psyche. The exhibition will demonstrate how this "universalism" serves as a transition to the artist’s third period, the 1950s, in which he incorporates figures in a geometric and planar space.

The last section of Making the Invisible Visible will exhibit fifteen large works created during the last thirty years of the artist’s life—a less studied and exhibited group. This section will critically explore the correlations between the artist’s pre- and post-war works and how they visualize his intense political beliefs, his ongoing fascination with the sciences, and his revolutionary ideas concerning the state of the world. Matta’s paintings of the 1960s and ’70s appear as swirling futuristic forms. His final creative period in the 1980s and ’90s reveals an artist that has come full circle, discovering a mystical dimension to his concern for humanity.

Accompanying Catalogue In addition to an essay by principal exhibition curator Elizabeth Goizueta, the accompanying scholarly catalogue—of approximately 150 pages with all exhibited works reproduced in color—will comprise essays by four co-curators. Three are Boston College professors: art historian Claude Cernuschi, an associate professor in BC’s Fine Arts Department; literary scholar Sarah Beckjord, assistant professor in BC’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department; and theologian Roberto Goizueta, a professor in BC’s Theology Department. An additional contributor is distinguished scholar of Latin American art, Mary Schneider Enriquez.

Each of the essays challenges accepted perceptions of artists of Latin American origin and the reception of their work. Enriquez examines Matta’s role as an artist of international influence—one of the first from Latin America to achieve a leadership role in the world’s art circles. Beckjord focuses on the critical reception of Matta's works from the 1940s within the context of historical processes and Latin American cultural exchange. Elizabeth Goizueta explores the symbiotic relationship between Matta and several Spanish and Latin American literary figures with whom he had close personal ties. Roberto Goizueta argues that Matta’s lifelong struggle to "make the invisible visible" suggests a fundamentally Ignatian, Catholic—and specifically, Latin American Catholic—impulse. Cernuschi investigates how Matta's key ambition to represent and evoke the human psyche in visual form was filtered through the writings of Freud and the psychoanalytic view of the mind as a three-dimensional space: the "inscape." [MEDIA NOTE: More details on the catalogue and contributors are available on the McMullen Museum web site: www.bc.edu/artmuseum].

McMullen Museum

The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and the international community. The Museum displays its notable permanent collection and mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art.

The Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 in honor of the late parents of Boston College benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs.

The 2003-04 academic year marks the 10th anniversary of the formal reopening of the Museum.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours

Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill campus of Boston College, at 140 Commonwealth Avenue.

From September through May, the McMullen Museum hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on April 9, 11 and 19, 2004.

Gallery tours of the exhibition will be given by Museum docents on Fridays at 12:30 p.m. Group tours may be arranged upon request, by calling (617) 552-8587 or via the McMullen Museum web site (see URL below).

For directions, parking and information about public programs, visit the web site at www.bc.edu/artmuseum or call (617) 552-8100.

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