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Introduzione (pag.

7) E non pi una tecnica rigorosa intesa come sinonimo di abilit e di perizia


esecutiva, ma al contrario un saggio opportunismo ben disposto a trarre partito dal caso dagli
incontri fortuiti, dai vari incidenti imprevedibili che sempre sorgono negli incontri e scontri tra
lattivit umana e le resistenze dellambiente (R.Barilli).
Avvertenza : larte novit per essenza. Ce un solo regime salutare per la creazione
artistica : quello della rivoluzione permanente . (17)
Ma la caratteristica propria dun arte dinvenzione di non somigliare allarte dominante (18)
A su regreso de su estancia en Pars en 1951, Tpies emprende un nuevo
rumbo artstico, que se traduce en la realizacin de muros sobre lienzo, uno de los
elementos ms carctersticos de su obra. Los muros y tapias construidos sobre el
lienzo ofrecen superficies opacas manchadas con signos a modo de lenguaje
popular, una especie de graffiti que se opone al lenguaje privado de la abstraccin,
tan de moda en ese momento. De esta manera el muro sirve de tablero para
comunicar las inquietudes de la sociedad. El muro se convierte en la metfora de
un foro en el que se inscriben graffiti que se revelan contra la situacin opresiva del
momento. Aprobecha la expresividad que puede tener la escritura en el muro, para
provocar un impacto en el espectador.
Tpies garnered notoriety in the Fifties with his matter paintings. Large and emphatically
physical canvases, they are layered with paint, sand, and marble dust and then incised,
scraped, and pierced. Tpies scratches into these surfaces forms that recall hieroglyphics,
calligraphy, and graffiti. These works can border on relief sculpture, and their colors are dry
and grittyblacks, browns, grays, and rusts predominate. The matter paintings share
affinities with other art of the time, particularly Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel. But
the strongest influence on Tpies may have been the art brut of Jean Dubuffet. Tpies shares
the Frenchmans fascination with the untutored vitality of graffiti, as well as with the
weathered surfaces of the city; Tpies has referred to his paintings as walls. But he has
neither Dubuffets sensitivity for surface nor his sense of humor. A Dubuffet-ish work like Nude
(1966)a mottled blot of a woman riddled with marks, letters, and smudgeshas a lot going
on in it, but it doesnt add up to much. Tpiess scribbles seem arbitrarytheres no pictorial
reasoning to them. Dubuffet defined the ground of his paintings with a crotchety line and an
all-over surface texture. In comparison, Tpies merely scrawls on his canvases with the hope
that something worthwhile will emerge.

Despite their gestural brutality and buckled surfaces, however, the matter paintings are tepid;
their ferocity is secondhand. Attempting to evoke the rawness of graffiti found on city walls,
Tpies copies the wall instead of embodying the unhewn energy that attracted him to it in the
first place. Theres no intrinsic life to his work; Tpies is so in thrall to the idea of art that he
cannot get beyond literal transcription. When he wants us to feel the weight of history, for
instance, he scratches a triangle and some hasty glyphs into an encrusted canvas, titles it
Pyramid, and thus, presumably, summons us before the glories of ancient Egypt. Tpies
trades in romantic banalities. In a sense, hes too polite for his own good, and Dubuffet, at his
best, was scarcely that.

The chief liability of Tpiess work relates to the idea of the wall in another way. For Tpies,
the flat surface of the canvas is just that: flat. He is too much of a materialist to believe in

painting as a vehicle for metaphor achieved through illusion. Tpies never sees into his
canvases and there is little space or light to speak of in his work. Consequently, Tpies abjures
painting for its (to borrow that burnished buzzword of the times) simulacrum. Of course, this is
not a characteristic unique to Tpies. Artists such as Robert Ryman and Cy Twombly practice
what could best be termed ersatz paintingthey offer the look of painting, if not its
actuality. And so it is with Tpies. For whatever else it may be, his workwith its scale,
physicality, and expressionist agitationlooks like it should be art. This may be the reason
why otherwise sensible people, like catalogue essayist Dore Ashton, admire his work: it has
the appearance of significance.

The surfaces of Tpiess canvases, then, serve solely as a base on which to pile detritus. And
pile it on he does. By the late Sixties and early Seventies, Tpies began affixing buckets, bags
of hay, rope, belt buckles, hooks, and a variety of other objects to his paintings. One fancies
that this was done in the hope of transcending (as the artist put it) the excesses of abstract
art, as if pasting on tangible objects did not risk its own variety of overkill. Yet, Tpies is also
something of a mystic and has stated that his aim is to induce a meditative state in the
viewer. In other words, hes a materialist, but he wants his spirituality (or anti-tangibility) too.
But theres no magic to Tpiess work; his objects sit dumbly on the surface of the canvas. His
painting is slapdash stuff and, boy, is it serious. (At least Robert Rauschenberg, whatever his
merits as an artist, had fun putting his assemblages together.) Yet, its hard to tell what Tpies
is so serious about.

Or maybe its too easy. Painting with an Ironing Board (1970) combines an ironing board, a
piece of cloth, and a small mirror on a ground splattered with paint and sand. Tpies arranges
these items in a vaguely iconic manner, but theres no sense of transformation to it. He
doesntor cantlet his objects carry their own metaphorical weight. Tpies has no faith in
their allusive capabilities, and how compelling is a mystic who doesnt have faith in something
larger than himself? One suspects that these works are intended to connect by force of will,
what Tpies calls the artists magic prestige. But will alone never put rubbish over on its
own terms and Tpies attempts at transcendence are woefully earthbound.

If Tpiess early work was ahead of its time, then his paintings of the Eighties and Nineties
poke along behind it. They are reminiscent, in no small way, of Mirs misguided attempts at
outdoing the Abstract Expressionists. In Tpiess case, its depressing seeing him trying to
catch up with, of all people, Julian Schnabel. (Talk about cultural de-evolution.) Immense in
scalewoe to the museum having to store these mammoths!the recent work is reliably
bombastic but it does ease up a bit; it provides more to look at if only because there isnt as
much stuff in the way. Here Tpiess use of materials becomes less monotonous as does the
oppressive physicality of the paintings. (The vacuum-like sweep of the SoHo Guggenheims
galleries helps the work along as well.) The paintings are still hodgepodges of stains,
scribbles, objects, and graffiti, but better sloppy vulgarity than portentous gravitas, if not by
much.

The finest pieces on view in Tpies predate the matter paintings. Silver Paper Collage and
Figure of Newsprint and Threads, both from 1946, are somewhat pedestrian neo-Surrealist
collages that nevertheless engage the viewer by inviting him to look closely. Silver Paper
Collage, in particular, with its tracery of threads, reveals Tpiess debt to Mir in a way that is
affecting. Even so, its memory all but pales in the face of what I consider the quintessential
Tpies painting. Infinity (1988) is a gray and grainy surface with the word INFINIT incised in
layers along all four edges of the painting, as if simplistic scrawls could conjure up an endless

horizon of spiritual inquiry. Here, Tpies relies on chutzpah and chutzpah alone, and it isnt
enough. Hes playing the artist as seer, presenting us with a philosophers stone predigested
for easy consumption and, much to his unimagined chagrin, easy to disregard. Tpiess work
may not be conceptual art as we have come to know it, but its limitations are related and no
amount of magic prestige will save it from being overheated and facile. If, indeed, Picasso,
Mir, and Tpies form the holy trinity of Spanish modernism, then Tpies reveals that some
artists are holier than others.

Nellopera Roda-Mandala del 1980, Tpies riprende graficamente il pensiero di Carl Jung
sullenergia circolare che governa il mandala (dal sanscrito, cerchio) ovvero <<In completa
armonia con la concezione orientale, il simbolo del mandala, infatti, non solo una forma
espressiva, ma esercita anche unazione agendo a ritroso sul suo stesso autore. Limmagine
ha lo scopo evidente di tracciare un sulcus primigenius, una magico solco intorno al centro,
templum o temenos (recinto sacro) della personalit pi intima, per evitare la dispersione, o
per tenere lontane in senso apotropaico le distrazioni provocate dal mondo esterno [].>>.
Tpies con un tratto vorticoso esprime questa forza primigenia, ultraterrena che sembra
inghiottire il caos della vita quotidiana, fatto di insignificanza e concretezza, portando a chi lo
traccia di guarire da questa monotonia e conquistare la via (Tao) per la propria spiritualit.

In generale, si tratta di un tipo di pittura dal procedimento pi lento rispetto ad altri indirizzi
dell'Informale. L'artista, infatti, calcola attentamente l'equilibrio compositivo del quadro, cerca
di valorizzarne al massimo le caratteristiche della superficie. Il suo interesse non rivolto
tanto alla forma rappresentata o al gioco delle tinte. Si focalizza piuttosto sulla trama e il
colore della materia, cercando nel contempo di salvaguardare l'armonia complessiva
dell'immagine.
Attraverso questo procedimento l'artista sonda le potenzialit energetiche ed evocative della
materia nuda e cruda, del tutto autonoma, svincolata da un'immagine. Le concrezioni di
materia pittorica, che sembrano sospese nel vuoto, diventano quindi metafora di una ricerca
esistenziale. Una ricerca volta a scoprire qualcosa di autenticamente genuino, da poter
opporre alla desolante mancanza di certezze.