LACMA acquires a monumental Matta

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Over the weekend the Los Angeles County Museum of Art continued to expand its Latin American holdings in a way both monumental and pertinent to the city. According to the museum’s blog, Unframed, Roberto Matta’s huge 1965-66 painting ‘Burn, Baby, Burn (L’escalade)’ was acquired for the museum by the Collectors Committee. The canvas is nearly 10 feet tall and 32 feet wide, which would likely make it the largest painting in LACMA’s collection.

The Chilean-born Matta (1911-2002) was famously expelled from the Surrealist movement in 1947 over a disagreement with Andre Breton. In the 1950s and 1960s his work took on more pointed political references, although the organic Surrealism and machine forms remained abstract, and his paintings never illustrated specific events. According to the museum the new acquisition was inspired by the Watts riots and the escalating violence of the Vietnam War. The year 1965 marked the introduction of napalm bombing by the American military in Southeast Asia, and the conflagration in Watts picked up the chant, ‘Burn, baby, burn’ popularized for R&B music by a local DJ.

The Collectors Committee also purchased a large historical group of African textiles from the Kuba culture in the region of today’s Democratic Republic of Congo. The museum has not yet announced when its new acquisitions will go on public view.


--Christopher Knight

Photo: Los Angeles County Museum of Art