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Antoni Tàpies: 1923—: Artist

Career Languished Briefly

Tàpies gained international attention in 1958, when he and sculptor Eduardo Chillida were invited to represent Spain at the prestigious Venice Biennale. His paintings began to incorporate unusual elements that gave them the "mixed media" tag, as he affixed the thick impasto paint with rags, dirt, sand, straw, cardboard, and even x-ray film. There was often graffiti-type writing, or the letters "A" and "T," as well. In 1962 he was honored with a solo show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, but then minimalist and pop art began to gain currency on the international art scene, and expressionist works such as his fell out of favor.

Fortunately, his career was revived after the death of Franco in 1975 and the renewal of interest in Catalan culture. Barcelona became one of Europe's most dynamic cities, and Tàpies's works were suddenly viewed in an entirely new light. New York Times journalist Edward Schumacher noted that Tàpies became "a father figure and cultural hero" in the province, which was granted autonomy again in 1980, and asserted that "it is from Catalonia's extraordinarily rich Romanesque heritage that the artist draws the simplicity, powerful spirituality and frescolike techniques that for nearly 40 years have remained the basis of much of his painting."

Later in his career, Tàpies began incorporating even larger objects onto his canvases, such as buckets and mirrors. Aside from these, he explained in the UNESCO Courier interview with Ibañez, "my equipment is extremely modest—it amounts to a brush whose bristles are rather worn. That's all I need. The simplest tools can express the deepest feelings." He also spoke about the unusual materials he uses. "Gold leaf will make a totally different impression on you from that made by a piece of torn cardboard," he reflected in the same interview. "And the piece of cardboard will have different connotations, and will arouse different feelings from those produced by a piece of polished marble." He remained firm in his belief, he told the UNESCO Courier, that "there is profound wisdom in the humblest objects. The Japanese say that the whole universe is contained in a grain of sand. These objects, which seem to be nothing but rubbish, can deliver an authentic human message."

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyAntoni Tàpies: 1923—: Artist Biography - Joined Avant-garde Group, Career Languished Briefly, Became Elder Statesman Of Spanish Art