Joaquin Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Joaquin Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)

Construcción infinito

Joaquin Torres-García (Uruguayan 1874-1949)
Construcción infinito
oil on canvas
20½ x 14¼ in. (52 x 36 cm.)
Painted in 1942.
Estate of Ifigenia Torres.
Alejandra, Aurelio and Claudio Torres collection.
Galerie Jan Krugier & Cie, Geneva.
Oriol Galeria d'Art, Barcelona.
Acquired from the above.
Exhibition catalogue, Torres-García Grid-Pattern-Sign Paris-Montevideo 1924-1944, London, Hayward Gallery, 1986, no. 117, p. 95 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Joaquín Torres-García: Un monde construit, Strasbourg, Museé d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, 2002, p. 217 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Torres-García: 30 pinturas de 1919 a 1949, Barcelona, Oriol Galeria d'Art, 2006, p. 65, no. 23 (illustrated in color).
London, Hayward Gallery, Torres-García: Grid-Pattern-Sign Paris-Montevideo 1924-1944, 14 November 1985 -23 February 1986, no. 117. This exhibition later traveled to Barcelona, Fundación Joan Miró, 13 March -4 May 1986; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, July -August 1986; and New York, The American Federation for the Arts, September 1986 -April 1987.
Strasbourg, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Joaquín Torres-García: un monde construit, 24 May -8 September 2002.
Barcelona, Oriol Galeria d'Art, Torres-García: 30 pinturas de 1919 a 1949, 22 June -22 September 2006, no. 23.

Lot Essay

This work is to be included in the forthcoming Catalogue raisonné of the artist under archive number P1942.33 and is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Cecilia de Torres and dated 25 November 2006 and previously classified under archive number 1942.54.

A groundbreaking artist and theorist, Joaquín Torres-García is best known as the founder of an abstract, symbolic painting movement he entitled Universalismo Constructivo. As well, he is the founder of the Taller Torres-García or Taller del Sur in Montevideo (1943-1962), a workshop that served as a catalyst for the consolidation of Torres-García's aesthetic philosophy, as well as a model for an integrated artistic community. A widely influential artist particularly among the Latin American avant-garde, he created his own unique, post-Cubist idiom. Combining aspects of Constructivism, neo-Plasticism and de Stijl, as well as pre-Columbian and indigenous forms, Torres-García invented a universal alphabet of archetypal symbols that he incorporated within a compartmentalized, planar space. This work, Construcción infinito, is a wonderfully pure example of his syncretic, modernist practice.

The notion of "indigenous constructivism" became one of the fundamental tenets of the School of the South. Torres-García arrived at this belief after a sequence of events. In 1928, he visited a pre-Columbian exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. He regularly visited the Trocadero (a prominent collection of primitive art) for inspiration and by 1930, he was integrating indigenous images into his work. His 1939 publication, Metafísica de la prehistoria indoamericana attempted to reconcile the pre-Columbian, African and European cultural elements that are the legacy of South America. In doing so, he helped create a new consciousness of artistic-cultural identity by, in part, utilizing pre-Columbian imagery much like Picasso and others drew from African art: to revitalize their approach to modernism. Torres-García's ceramic or stone reliefs, such as the massive Cosmic Monument (Montevideo, 1938), made particular reference to Incan stonework.

Incan architecture, particularly in the capital of Cuzco, is extraordinarily stable during earthquakes. Without using mortar, sculpted stones were fitted tightly together so that even a knife could not be inserted. The tectonic grid formed by these stone walls is neither rigorous nor systematic. It refers to human labor, emotion, and expression. In 1942, several Taller members traveled to Bolivia and Peru to study indigenous Andean culture. Some had begun to collect pre-Colombian objects, which were studied at the Taller and utilized in exhibitions they organized. Construcción infinito was painted the very year of the Taller's exploratory travels, as Torres-García incorporated the geometric approach of pre-Columbian culture, as well as those lessons learned decades earlier amongst the modernists in Paris. It should also be noted that in 1903 in Barcelona, the artist assisted Antoni Gaudí with stained-glass windows for both the Palma de Mallorca as well as the Sagrada Familia cathedrals. Although the wall of rectangles in Construcción infinito is the color of stone, in the top center, a small cross is inscribed that hearkens back to church windows. Torres-García's "Infinite Construction" could refer to the impressive and endless ancient Incan walls, the scale and ambition of modern architecture from the Sagrada Family to the skyscrapers of New York, as well as to his art making practice, which so clearly married European and indigenous iconographies.

Joaquín Torres-García was born on July 28, 1874 in Montevideo. He spent fruitful periods in Barcelona (1891-1920), and New York (1920-1922), before basing himself in Paris (1926-1932). There, he formed the group and organized the magazine, Cercle et Carré in 1930, which promoted constructivist and abstract art. After a stint in Madrid (1932-1934), he returned to Montevideo in 1934, where he imparted his lasting legacy. Bringing moderninst European theories to Uruguay, Torres-García was a controversial figure. He established the Sociedad de las Artes del Uruguay, gave classes at the Escuela Taller de Artes Plásticas, and created exhibitions in a rented space known as Estudio 1037. In 1935 he published the book, Estructura, and established the Asociación de Arte Constructivo. The first issue of his second magazine, Círculo y Cuadrado, appeared in 1936 as a continuation of Cercle et Carré. Taller Torres-García members included the young artists Julio Alpuy, Gonzalo Fonseca, José Gurvich, among others. This community workshop included practice, study, exhibitions, and travel. In 1944, he published Universalismo Constructivo. Torres-García painted his final picture in 1949, the year of his death.

Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, El Museo del Barrio.

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