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Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949)
Madera constructiva
inscribed 'Certifico que esta obra es original de J. Torres Garcia' signed 'Manolita P. de Torres Garcia' and also signed 'Rose Fried' (on the reverse)
oil on incised wood panel
12 x 7¾ in. (30.5 x 19.6 cm.)
executed in 1930
Estate of Joaquín Torres-García.
Olimpia Torres, Uruguay.
Rose Fried Gallery, New York (13 November 1961; later returned to family).
Leonardo Díaz, Uruguay.
Galería Sur, Punta del Este.
Galería Guillermo de Osma, Madrid.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 20 November 2006, lot 10.
Jan Krugier, acquired at the above sale.
New York, Praxis Gallery, J. Torres-García: His School and "The Material Fact," May-June 1996, p. 15 (illustrated).
Madrid, Galería de Arte Juan Gris, Torres-García: Óleos, dibujos y juguetes, October 1998, no. 2 (illustrated).
Madrid, Galería Guillermo de Osma and Barcelona, Galería Oriol, Torres-García: Construcciones en madera, November 2000-February 2001, p. 22, no. 7 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Mrs. Cecilia de Torres for her assistance cataloguing the present work.

This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Manolita de Torres-García (inscribed on the reverse of the work).

This work is also sold with a certificate of authenticity signed by Alejandra Torres and dated 31 July 2013.

Working in the international milieu of Paris between 1926 and 1932, Torres-García sought to translate an invisible, metaphysical order in paintings symbolically structured to embody an ideal harmony within the universe. He defined his mature pictorial language around the constructivist grid, in whose linear and spatial relationships he came to posit the oppositional relationships of the cosmos: male and female, material and spiritual, active and passive. The introduction of schematic, representational motifs into the gridded spaces of his abstractions, as in the present work, marked the beginnings of a new, integral aesthetic that he would promote as Constructive Universalism following his return to Uruguay in 1934. This synthesis of archetypal motifs and pictographs with the formal values of modernism, which he cultivated in Paris, would catalyze the development of abstract art in the Southern Cone in the postwar years.

Central to Torres-García's practice during this critical European period, as well as to the gestation of his theory of Constructive Universalism, were the maderas, a series of wood constructions that he began in the mid-1920s and continued over the course of his career. Approximately 135 maderas date from the Paris years; the series spans objects in two and three dimensions made out of both painted and unfinished wood (sometimes in combination, as here). The maderas marked "the experimental starting point for his development of a paradoxical, albeit sui-generis, form of abstraction," Mari Carmen Ramírez has explained, and "functioned as a research laboratory through which a number of ideas encompassing geometric and constructive trends merged." (quoted in Torres-García, exh. cat., The Menil Collection, Houston, 2009, p. 11, 33).

Torres-García exhibited the maderas for the first time in April 1930 on the occasion of the public debut of the group Cercle et Carré, which he had co-founded with Michel Seuphor and others in September 1929. The Cercle et Carré artists, including Piet Mondrian and Jean Arp, coalesced around shared interests in constructivist aesthetics and abstraction, advanced in their single exhibition and eponymous periodical, which ran for three issues. The rough-hewn, figurative impulse contained within some of the maderas from this period anticipated Torres-García's later separation from the group, just months after their exhibition, as he turned away from the Neo-plastic aesthetics of his earlier paintings and the group's purist orientation. Signally in these maderas, Torres-García articulated an alternative structure for abstraction, located in the nexus between the cosmic and the concrete.

A classic madera from this transformative year, Madera constructiva incises universal signs--sun, building, anchor--into a wood panel, materially registering the relationship between the structure of the grid and the humanistic values embedded within its forms. Handmade and imprecise, the carved lines echo the raw, jagged surface of the wooden board, whose textured grain remains visible beneath the gray pigment. The pictographic forms circumscribe a rectangle at the center of the image, an enigmatic presence whose abstraction--punctuated by two, small holes--affirms the work's underlying geometry. These tensions between structure and form underscore the creative and intellectual range of Torres-García's process as he began to conceptualize his practice of Constructive Universalism.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.

(fig. 1) Opening of the first exhibition of the Cercle et Carré group, Paris, 1930, including Michel Seuphor, Marcelle Cahn, Francisca Clausen, Sophie Taeuber, Jean (Hans) Arp, Vera Idelson, Mondrian, Russolo, Torres-García, Vordemberge-Gildewart, Jean Gorin, and Manolita Torres. (C) Copyright 2013 Alejandra, Aurelio and Claudio Torres. BARCODE: 29668489.

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