Abstraction, ca. 1948
Oil and charcoal
144.8 x 189.2 cm (57 x 74 1/2 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Peggy Guggenheim 54.189
Roberto Matta Echaurren, a member of the Surrealist group until 1948, embraced the idea of stream-of-consciousness or “automatic” writing to gain access to suppressed realms of the mind. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s notion that the unconscious state could be as great a force in life as the conscious, the Surrealists looked to many unconventional processes that had been bypassed in the name of rational thinking. This drawing, called simply Abstraction, demonstrates Matta’s aggressive use of automatism combined with his growing concern about how technology and war impacted the individual. In this mural-scale work on paper, a dizzying array of aggressive flying machines swarm over a prone female. Matta seems to be expressing the anxiety and horror of the aftermath of World War II.