"To say that the vanguard has died is a betrayal of the fight to change the world."
Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Barcelona, one of the leaders of Spanish informalism, whose influence will be decisive at the international level.
Tàpies began his artistic career in 1945, after abandoning his law studies and after convalescence from a lung disease that allowed him the physical and mental rest necessary for study and intellectual reflection. It is then when he approaches the works of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietszche, Miguel de Unamuno and Arthur Schopenhauer, poets such as Edgar Allan Poe, musicians such as Richard Wagner or Robert Schumann, and artists such as Vincent van Gogh or the surrealist era of Pablo Picasso. Shortly after, he would discover Jean Paul Sartre, whose existentialism would mark his vital and artistic career.
On the basis of surrealism, he founded in 1948, together with a group of young Catalan artists and intellectuals, the Dau al Set group, which proposed an avant-garde artistic and cultural option to break with the conventional currents that were developing in Spain at that time. In 1950 he was awarded a scholarship in Paris, where he made contact with the revolutionary ideas of the left and with abstract painting. That same year he held his first individual exhibition.
In 1951, Tàpies separated from the Dau al Set group and began an individual evolution, opting for an informalist, abstract line, based on research on pictorial matter as an artistic expressive medium: he imposed matter over form as a total value. Hence, his work is a first-rate exponent of the informalist material trend. Throughout his career he uses various procedures. In the collage, he mixes heterogeneous elements with the pictorial paste applied directly from the tube in the form of thick and grainy fillings, on which he makes prints, incisions, grooves and cracks, with his fingers and other means. Other times he uses grattage, which consists of scratching or scratching surfaces such as cardboard. The final objective is a relief painting, orographic, recreating itself in the presentation of rough, porous or grainy textures (ultimately material) that contrast with smooth surfaces, as can be seen in his work Crackled White (1956). Starting in 1953, he made use of the technique called mixture, consisting of mixing oil paint with marble dust, the purpose of which is, once again, to highlight the material character of the work, as in Negro con stacha roja (1954). Other times it uses surface gluing.
In his works a series of signs and images that belong to the artist's inner and symbolic universe are repeated, with clear allusions to the universe, life, death or sexuality. Among them appear in his compositions geometric figures, more or less blurred or distorted, such as the oval (White Oval, 1957), the circle, the square (Gray door, circa 1958), later the triangle (Triangular shape on gray, 1961 ); signs such as the cross, constant throughout his career, which can be Greek, Latin, cross (Big X, 1962), T-shaped, the latter associated with the initial of his surname; numbers, letters, among others. In this sense, it is worth mentioning Black Matter on Sack (1960) and Criss-Cross Strings on Wood (1960). Starting in 1962, a stage began in which the integration into the work of everyday objects such as ropes, plates (Montón de Platos, 1970), straw, along with anthropomorphic signs (foot, hand, fingers), as observed in White with footsteps, which denotes an interest in capturing the human footprint and presence in his works; themes and symbols of a sexual nature also appear (male and female sexual organs, straw, blankets, bed ...) as in Straw on cloth. Its chromatic range has oscillated between monochromatic and neutral colors with a predominance of gray, black, white and ocher and the inclusion of a more vivid color, with reds, oranges, pinks, yellows and blues.
Starting in the 1970s, his work shows stylistic heterogeneity and, although he continues to cultivate informalism, sometimes he presents an objectual reality made up of the presentation of everyday elements, for example in Gray Matter in the shape of a hat.
Tàpies has been considered a precursor of arte povera. Since the 1950s his work has enjoyed international recognition, reflected in the organization of exhibitions on his work by major museums and art galleries around the world. In 1958 he received the Carnegie Prize and in 1967 the Ljubljana Biennial of Engraving. There are also numerous theoretical studies carried out by specialists on his work. In addition, he has made ceramics, tapestries and sculptures, among which it is worth highlighting his mosaic in Plaça de Sant Boi de Llobregat (Barcelona), his public sculptures Homenaje a Picasso and Núbol i cadira (Cloud and chair), both inaugurated in Barcelona in 1990, and his controversial Sock (1992), 18 m long. In 1990 the Tàpies Foundation was inaugurated in Barcelona, created on the artist's own initiative to promote and disseminate knowledge of contemporary art, as well as to exhibit and preserve his own work.