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Palla i fusta, 1969

Straw and Wood

Assemblage on canvas
150 x 116 cm

Like his matter paintings, Tàpies’ objects from the 1970s also connect with the Symbolist and mystical currents of modern art. It need not surprise us, therefore, that Tàpies explains a work such as Palla i fusta (Straw and Wood, 1969) in terms of Vedantic myths, according to which fire reached the Earth from a spark that fell from the sun and set a truss of straw alight. Similarly, straw alludes to very humble aspects of existence, such as the stable, straw mattresses, or dung; and it indicates to us that fire and life emerge from the lowliest things. It is no coincidence therefore that the straw is arranged in such a way as to remind us not only of solar and cosmic elements, but also of pubic hair, with which the artist shows us the continuum existing between what is exalted and what is ignoble. At the same time the canvas is divided into two by a strip of wood. In this way, and also in a symbolic manner, Tàpies expresses the dialectic established between the two opposites that form the universe: the eternal feminine-masculine, yin-yang, good-evil. This duality is resolved in the white of the background, which is the colour of the beginning and the end, the colour of absolute silence. The duality presented in Palla i fusta (Straw and Wood, 1969). has an additional and clear social dimension: having been split into two sections, the pieces tell us of a world divided between those who are above and those who are below.

Extracts from Manuel J. Borja-Villel, “The Collection”, Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1990)

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