Roberto Matta was attracted to Surrealism’s blending of literature and the visual arts through an exploration of conscious and unconscious states of mind. His work is filled with literary images, and he often referred to his paintings as visual poems. Throughout his life, Matta befriended many Latin American writers and poets such as Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, and Julio Cortázar, and the titles of his works attest to his poetic proclivities. In 1984, Matta called for solidarity across the Americas, writing, “The American Verb is the recovery of events that are not told in stories… the artists of the different nations of America have broken down borders sooner than the politicians and the military: It is the sign of a continental consciousness.”1 In "Verbo América", the depicted human landscape expresses the heterogeneity and complex history of the American continent. The nightmarish composition is a chaotic arrangement of figures that recall pre-Columbian iconography and appear caught in a violent conflict. On the bottom of the print, a short text alludes to the political context of this work: “Many are the problems, and only one solution, Mapuche economy of survival, Nicanor Parra.” Parra, a Chilean poet and philosopher, used his work to protest against systems of oppression. In Chile, for example, indigenous groups such as the Mapuche have been removed from their land, alienated, and discriminated against. With this work, Matta reclaims the meaning of America as a place beyond the United States, forging unity and solidarity through a common history of oppression and rich visual and literary culture.
This text was created in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and written by Patricia Ortega-Miranda.