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Between and Mortarboard


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I Want To See It To Believe It

Accession Number
1947/2.13

Title
I Want To See It To Believe It

Artist(s)
Roberto Matta

Artist Nationality
Chilean

Object Creation Date
1947

Medium & Support
color lithograph on paper

Dimensions
16 1/2 in x 13 in (41.91 cm x 33.02 cm);16 1/2 in x 13 in (41.91 cm x 33.02 cm);22 1/16 in x 18 1/8 in (56.04 cm x 46.04 cm);28 1/8 in x 22 1/8 in (71.44 cm x 56.2 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
At the request of art critic Nicholas Calas, seven Surrealist artists collaborated on a print portfolio published by Brunidor Editions, in New York, whose director was Robert Altmann. The artists were Max Ernst, Stanley William Hayter, Wifredo Lam, Matta, Joan Miró, Kurt Seligmann, and Yves Tanguy. The etchings were printed in Hayter’s Atelier 17, while the lithographs were pulled in the studio of Alfred Jones.
Calas’ introduction to the portfolio turned on the age-old controversy between line and color, in which line or form is seen as relating to thought, while color or light is considered pertinent to emotion. Excerpts from his essay, entitled "Saper Vedere" (To Know How to See), are given in italics in the labels accompanying each of the prints from the portfolio, all of which are exhibited here. Calas describes not only what these artists "see" with their imaginations, but also what he as a critic "sees" as he interprets the inherent meanings of these prints.
University of Michigan Museum of Art director Jean Paul Slusser in 1947 showed himself to be in the vanguard of contemporary trends in his recommendation that this portfolio be acquired in the very year it was published.
. . . the humor in Matta’s cartoon is of the cruellest kind, based as it is on the realization of the incongruity of a situation which is tragic rather than comic. It is the story-portrait of the narcissist wounded in his pride, of the dandy admiring his wound; it is the drama of isolation portrayed on a cross, now situated in the stratosphere.
Matta studied architecture in his native Chile, moving in 1933 to Paris, where he was a draftsman in the studio of the architect Le Corbusier. In the mid-1930s he went to Madrid, where met Dalí and Breton. His earliest Surrealist works evince his interest in automatism, a procedure that he later shared with artists such as Gerome Kamrowski and Jackson Pollock after he immigrated to the United States in 1939. In 1944 Duchamp influenced his turn from biomorphism to geometry. In reaction to World War II, images of machines, automata, and the deformed human body entered his work.
Matta’s lithograph in The Brunidor Portfolio is also known as Strange Situation (Open Cube [cube ouvert]).
Label copy from exhibition "Dreamscapes: The Surrealist Impulse," August 22 - October 25, 1998

Subject matter
This print is part of a portfolio published by Brunidor Editions, New York (the portfolio's namesake), at the request of art critic Nicholas Calas, and included six prints from a number of prominent Surrealist artists, including: Max Ernst, Stanley William Hayter, Wifredo Lam, Joan Miró, Kurt Seligmann, and Yves Tanguy. Calas’ introduction to the portfolio turned on the age-old controversy between line and color, in which line or form is seen as relating to thought, while color or light is considered pertinent to emotion. Excerpts from his essay, entitled "Saper Vedere" (To Know How to See), are given in italics in the labels accompanying each of the prints from the portfolio, all of which are exhibited here. Calas describes not only what these artists "see" with their imaginations, but also what he as a critic "sees" as he interprets the inherent meanings of these prints.
Matta's contribution, plate five of six, reflects his previous study of architecture in the regular grid and detailed line drawing. At the same time, it represents his engagement with Surrealism. After meeting painter Salvador Dali and poet André Breton in Paris, Matta joined the Surrealist movement before the war. Matta's work engaged in Freud's ideas of the subconscious mind; and like other Surrealists, he used an automatic artistic process to create his work, unmuddied by premeditation. The Chilean artist was well aware of the political climate in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and became involved in political activism. The humanoid figures are transected by planes and integrated with mechanical-looking parts, pointing to the new atomic age of man.

Physical Description
This vertical print is bisected by four horizontal light blue squares approximately one third of the way up from the bottom. The second square from the left is joined by a square above and below so that all the liight blue squares create a horizontally oriented cross. Both inside and outside the cross-grid there are seven tan figures, who seem to be engaged in a variety of activities. There are a number of designs that move out from the cross, some related to what is pictured inside and some not. The print is signed and dated (l.l.) "Matta 47" and numbered (l.r.) "57/70" in pencil.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Latin American
Surrealism
Surrealist
architectural drawings (visual works)
automation
automaton
figures (representations)
modern and contemporary art
open cubes
portfolios (groups of works)
squares

& Author Notes

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