New York

Antoni Tapies

Martha Jackson Gallery

It is a delusion to imagine that one can describe features of Antoni Tapies’s art which rise above patent self-imitation and the febrility of an unremitting Expressionist unctuousness. My despair of Tapies is caused by the very closeness of his flirtations with hard critical issues. He brings his spectators to a margin of authentic difficulty only to disappoint them anew with quick and easy solutions. The signature exacerbation and flaying at moments verge on the heroically ugly and are therefore potentially powerful. Come this far, Tapies must, he imagines, “redeem himself” with grace note brushstrokes and Baroque appoggiatura. Filling his paint with a kind of plastic sand, and then troweling it across broad surfaces and waiting for the marzipan-like skin to set, he lastly cleaves up seismic disruptions that carry with it carcasses of wrinkles and ridges in the agreeable disorder of natural phenomena.

This pulpy, terrestrial imagery is predicated now on bold equilibrated configurations that deal with the sub-surface memory of furniture. Once the image is anchored symmetrically, Tapies, by some urgent symbolical act, once again reverts to a keener abstract impulse and crosses it out, destroying by this gesture the very figuration he employed to get the image out in the first place. Across his chairs, beds, tables, frames, plates, he X’s in a huge crisscross, corner to corner. One does not know whether he is denying the imagery, the material substance or the obvious regressive sensual pleasure in which he is indulging.

Robert Pincus-Witten