Matta’s “Notes” On How Social Psychology Modifies Human Bodies

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Roberto Matta, “Uninhibited Love”

Sexually intercoursing couple is a famous topic of the painters with surrealist background and backbone. But while Picasso, for example, even when joking about human sexuality in his work, was still always admiring the human bodily vitality, Matta was often disgusted by the self-asserting vulgarity of human nature when social rivalry and psychological megalomania stimulated by human urge for sexual self-assertion become colored with aggressiveness to such a degree of intensity that even many animals don’t have.

This work puts the human couple in the primordial bodily action – at the center of the world – sex has this amazing ability to centralize the sexual subjects, to make them feel, as though, they are the very nucleus of the universe, which, as if, reproducing itself through human godly sexual aspirations. Matta parodies this self-aggrandizement of the machoistic males by making the sexual couple not only feel itself as the heart of the world but capable to magically structure the world by the very movements of the bodies of lovers. By adding this Einsteinian motif by his schematic representation of space as a combination of lines, curves and angles, Matta not only emphasizes the “cosmic” nature of machoistic intercourse, where male dominates the female as space above dominates the space below, but he makes accent on the fact that the woman, while also feeling herself in the center of the universe but is subdued, a secondary participant in universe’s sexual mysteries. And this makes the male feel not only in absolute wombic center but also, in a way, above it (in the abode of god). The blue forms represent, it seems, the stars (but also cosmic stones/meteors), while the red one – the sun (but also the famous apple of “delight“), behind the male, as if, backing him up by being “completely on his side”.

In a universe depicted through new scientific paradigm, as Matta does it here, the physical contact between material bodies is balanced by the gravitational relations between them – intercourse between the man’s and woman’s bodies is complicated by the movements of their suspended positions in relation to one another. The rich nerves around the woman’s mouth correspond to the male’s triumphantly opened jaw fixated by her hands. It is, as if she plays melody of his moods on his teeth as keys of musical instrument. It is quite mechanical – to open his jaw she has to massage his mug with her quite protruded tongue: it looks that only with his predatory opened jaw ready to swallow he can ejaculate – it is predatoriness in the process of being greedily satisfied what triggers orgasmic ejaculation. It sounds pretty horrible, but it looks so also, and Matta, no doubt, was completely aware of it.

Traditional – machoistic psychology parodied in some of Matta’s works is in contrast with the new cosmic space depicted by the artist with humorous stylistic sharpness. Some things are, obviously, not developing with time – even cosmic structures gradually change but not the eternal machoism of a conservative males’ psyche.

Roberto Matta, “Passionate Quarrel”
Roberto Matta, “Libidinous Quarrel”

The feverish quarrel between man and the woman makes a man to feel insulted and sulking, while the woman – a hysterical maker of scene. Matta made both belong to the dog specie. Man has a hat symbolizing patriarchal power while woman’s internal volcano bursts with indignation and fury. The man can’t swallow the fact that his authority is not unconditionally accepted by the “arrogant femininity” – his cigar is died out, and his hands demonstratively have withdrawn “from the world”. While the woman has turned her body from him, her face is still turned towards him – it is challengingly fixated on the man, and her multiple hands (multiplied by woman’s habitual pluralistic ways of providing man with sexual satisfaction) still didn’t lose contact with his bodily personification of masculine magnificence.

While shadowy forms in the lower part of the painting depict the banal scenes of courtship between man and woman, the very background of the “Libidinous Quarrel” expresses the sullied and outworn relations between genders which it took for history a long time to perfect.

The meaning of these two works by Matta, seen together is it seems the equal monstrosity of the traditional machoistic domination over woman and women’s domination oriented rebellion against masculine authority. Is Matta then claiming that the monstrosity of domination and hateful mutiny against it (oriented on counter-domination) are both equally disgusting because in both cases aggressiveness is a part of the phenomenon? But can there be a rebellion that is not based on indifference and hate, a rebellion which is planned and executed democratically, which is felt with empathy and compassion towards those against whom it is acted? Can we imagine a mutiny as an act of love? Can such a thing exist?

Roberto Matta
Roberto Matta (1911-2002)