Francisco Toledo's extraordinary images of insects and animals both real and imaginary are his most recognizable trademark. As Dawn Ades has remarked, these "function almost as his signature." (1) We know they belong to no one else--a rabbit with a woman's head, a monkey that strangely resembles Toledo himself, an elephant, such as this one that bears a complete genealogy unto unto itself--all these impossible creatures are part of his bestiary.
These beastly representations embody myths and legends from the artist's native soil, Oaxaca. His animals have lived in the founding legends of the ancients of his homeland. Their stories are inextricably linked to human existence--they become us and we them in the artist's fables that paradoxically enough, reflect both our human condition but also our animal nature. We are them.
Toledo's meticulous and rigorous draftsmanship is of utter eloquence. In La familia de elefantes, he uses a tracery of shortened lines that resemble stitching as in a quilt thus creating an overall pattern that animates the entire surface. His use of dark and light shades of rust and brown tones allude to the habitat of this largest land animal which lives in a matriarchal society of mothers and daughters, aunts and cousins. The artist has depicted an entire family unit within one single animal--unborn and newly born calves are part of the animal's history in this narrative that defies time and place.
1) D. Ades, Francisco Toledo, Turner Books, London, 2000, 43.