Matta painted this fifteen-foot-long, mural-sized canvas in 1946 while he was living in New York (1939-48). It is a complex labyrinth of architectural structures seen from various perspectives and primitive humanoid figures contorted unnaturally and exploding with sexual exhibitionism. Such imagery drew from Matta's familiarity with architectural design (he worked for Le Corbusier in Paris from 1935 to 1937) and from Surrealism (he joined the Paris group in 1936). Like so many other modern artists who emigrated from Europe to the United States, Matta was physically removed from the horrors of World War II, yet his painting clearly expresses his distress at the state of the world. Unlike his previous Surrealist works (called "psychological morphologies") that looked within and invented visual equivalents for various states of consciousness, his paintings and drawings of the mid to late 1940s (called "social morphologies") attempted to address the broader societal crisis that the artist felt he was a part of, or as the title of this painting suggests, being with. These changes in approach alienated him from the Surrealists, but brought him closer to the nascent Abstract Expressionist group in New York (particularly Robert Motherwell and Arshile Gorky) who were eager to experiment with Surrealist techniques and imagery.
the artist (1946–85; on consignment to Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1946–ca. 1949; in 1985 to Loria); Jeffrey Loria, New York (1985–2003; sold to MMA)
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Matta," April 11–May 4, 1946, brochure no. 2 (as "Being with").
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Large Scale Modern Paintings," April 1–May 4, 1947, no catalogue (checklist no. 19; as "'Being With,'" lent by the Pierre Matisse Gallery).
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Matta," September 10–October 20, 1957, no. 21.
Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Matta," November 15–December 30, 1957, no. 21.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. "Matta," January 18–March 2, 1958, no. 21.
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "Matta," October 3–December 16, 1985, no. 68.
William Rubin. "Jackson Pollock and the Modern Tradition, Part I." Artforum 7 (February 1967), pp. 28-37.
"Inside Art: A Big Find For the Met." New York Times (August 1, 2003), p. E30, ill.
Lisa M. Messinger in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2003–2004." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Fall 2004), pp. 40–41, ill. (color).