Catalan Abstract Painter Antoni Tapies Dies

Antoni Tàpies, the Spanish abstractionist has died in Barcelona. He was 88.  Tapies was one of the last surviving European first generation abstract painters. He was also a political artist working against the fascist government of General Franco, in his native Catalan region. Tapis was known for his sprawling works that sometimes featured discarded everyday materials. His adolescence was disrupted by the Spanish Civil War and a serious illness that lasted two years. Tàpies began to study law in Barcelona in 1944 but two years later decided instead to devote himself exclusively to art. He was essentially self-taught as a painter; the few art classes he attended left little impression on him. Shortly after deciding to become an artist, he began attending clandestine meetings of the Blaus, an iconoclastic group of Catalan artists and writers who produced the review Dau al Set …. Tàpies’s early work was influenced by the art of Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró, and by Eastern philosophy. His art was exhibited for the first time in the controversial Salo d’Octubre in Barcelona in 1948. He soon began to develop a recognizable personal style related to matière painting, or Art Informel, a movement that focused on the materials of art-making. The approach resulted in textural richness, but its more important aim was the exploration of the transformative qualities of matter. Tàpies freely adopted bits of detritus, earth, and stone—mediums that evoke solidity and mass—in his large-scale works…. In 1950, his first solo show was held at the Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona, and he was included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. That same year, the French government awarded Tàpies a scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in Paris. His first solo show in New York was presented in 1953 at the gallery of Martha Jackson, who arranged for his work to be shown the following year in various galleries around the United States.

Tàpies was a prolific  artist creating over 8,000 works during a fruitful career, which would lead to exhibitions in New York, Paris,London, Rome,Japan and his native Spain. In 1990 he was honoured with a  foundation dedicated to modern art,  in his name in Barcelona. According to his New York gallery, Pace, Tàpies has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions at museums and institutions worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Kunsthaus Zürich; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Serpentine Gallery, London; Jeu de Paume, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Haus der Kunst, Munich; MACBA, Barcelona; and Dia:Beacon, New York. A retrospective of his work is on show at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen in Germany (until February 19). Tàpies represented Spain at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and was awarded the Golden Lion prize. He was also awarded Spain’s top honour for artists, the Velazquez Prize, in 2003. Spain’s King Juan Carlos I awarded him the title of Marqués de Tàpies in 2010. He died Monday after a long illness.

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