Roberto Matta was a Chilean artist widely known for his involvement with the second Surrealist generation of 1930s Paris. His drawings and paintings explore the relationship between psychological states of mind at the level of the individual and of society. In 1939, Matta arrived in New York and met the British engraver Stanley William Hayter, who founded the printmaking workshop Atelier 17. Hayter’s shop fostered a spirit of camaraderie and creative freedom that attracted many young artists and inspired them to embrace printmaking as a social and political tool. Matta’s engraving practice can be traced to this period, when he produced the "New School" series (1944). "Mountain Top" shows the characteristic line work observed in his earlier prints, in which elongated figures emerge out of rhythmic linear patterns. However, the use of colors and added layers of texture created by the aquatint process introduce new technical complexity and show Matta’s increasing aptitude for the medium. "Mountain Top" further reveals his concern with the representation of space and its conceptualization as a series of physical and symbolic structures, which can be traced to his apprenticeship with Le Corbusier in the mid-1930s. This composition plays with the Surrealist technique of extrapolating spaces through visual and linguistic play. Here, anthropomorphic figures walk, run, and perform somersaults, defying gravity while moving through a dreamlike landscape where a rising mountain is but a seabed.
This text was created in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and written by Patricia Ortega-Miranda.