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Friday, November 2 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
3.C. Moveable and Immovable Space

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PANEL. Moveable and Immovable Space

“Walls Like Damp Sheets”: Roberto Matta’s Project for an Apartment"
Michele Greet
George Mason University

Known today as an important surrealist painter, Roberto Matta originally trained as an architect in Chile, and subsequently traveled to Paris where he served as an apprentice to Le Corbusier from 1934 until 1936. Although he soon rejected Le Corbusier’s rigid modernist aesthetic, his architectural training informed his unique approach to surrealism and gave him the ability to render complex spatial systems. In 1938 André Breton invited Matta to submit an essay to the surrealist journal Minotaure. To illustrate the resulting essay, “Mathématique Sensible-Architecture du Temps,” Matta submitted a collage entitled Project for an Apartment. In his essay Matta envisions an apartment as a malleable womb-like space: “We need to cry against the digestions of right angles in the midst of which one allows oneself to be brutalized.” Instead he advocates spaces that would “cybernetically adapt themselves to the occupant.” He calls for “walls like damp sheets” and “furniture which rolls out from unexpected spaces, receding, folding up, filling out like a walk in the water.” Not only would the space adapt to the occupant’s physical contours, it would also morph to accommodate the inhabitant’s mood and conform to each individual’s disposition. This paper will take an in-depth look at Matta’s essay and collage Project for an Apartment as a unique manifestation of surrealist design, and situate this early project in relation to his development as a painter.

"Contextualizing Agustín Cárdenas’ Early Surrealist Sculpture"
Lewis Kachur
Kean University

The Cuban sculptor Agustín Cárdenas received a government travel grant that brought him to Paris in 1955. He soon made connections to Surrealist circles, and had a one-man show at Galerie du Dragon with catalogue preface by André Breton. Cárdenas seemed to be following in the footsteps of the Cuban Wifredo Lam, who had been welcomed by the Surrealists in the early 1940s. Indeed their works were hung in proximity in the New York exhibition Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters’ Domain, 1960-61, where all artists had tiny national flags affixed to their frames. Following Aimé Césaire’s concept of negritude, Breton and José Pierre were eager to stress Cárdenas African roots, especially his relation to traditional African sculpture. This essentializing can be temperered by a consideration of the Caribbean aspects of Cárdenas’ early sculpture. He made several totemic works he entitled “Antillean,” applying this adjective to both figurative and vegetative subjects. He received early support from Martinique-born writer Édouard Glissant, an early owner of one of the Antillean series. These late 1950s works, fusions of plant-like forms with the personnage, seem to anticipate Glissant’s 1960s concept of antillanité, which downplayed African roots for a focus on West Indian identity. Furthermore, Glissant’s discussion of verticality provides a Caribbean context for Cárdenas’s totemic carvings.


Michele Greet

George Mason University

Lewis Kachur

Kean University

avatar for Claire Howard

Claire Howard

Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

Friday November 2, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room C. Vaughan Literature: Willard Smith Library (ground floor)