Francisco Toledo (Mexican b. 1940)
Francisco Toledo (Mexican b. 1940)

Tamazul (Sapo)

Francisco Toledo (Mexican b. 1940)
Tamazul (Sapo)
signed and dated 'Toledo 79' (on the reverse)
oil and sand on canvas
21½ x 27½ in. (55 x 70 cm.)
Painted in 1979.
Galería Juan Martín, Mexico City.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 24 May 2005, lot 5 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
L. Cardoza y Aragón, Toledo, Mexico City, Ediciones ERA, 1987,
p. 40.
Exhibition catalogue, Francisco Toledo, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 2000, p. 58, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Francisco Toledo, Exposición Retrospectiva 1963-1979, 1980. This exhibition also traveled to Monterrey, Museo de Monterrey.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Franciso Toledo, 14 April- 7 June 2000, no. 11. This exhibition also traveled to Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 20 June- 28 August 2000.

Lot Essay

Born in Juchitán to a Zapotec family, Francisco Toledo has for over fifty years rekindled the original primitive feeling of his Oaxacan roots in his work. Like Rufino Tamayo and Rodolfo Morales deeply imbued with the psychic mysticism of the Oaxacan universe, Toledo has powerfully revitalized the mysteries of pre-Hispanic myth through the sagacious anthropomorphic beings that reside in his rich imaginary. His paintings celebrate the animistic spirituality of this indigenous world, depicting fantastic creatures in myriad states of metamorphosis and in intimate rituals of creation and consummation. Animals were privileged and miraculous beings in Zapotec legend, the "connecting link between nature and society, mediators between man and the sacred energies of the natural ambience," Erika Billeter has explained. "Animals were the real character of the myth, the sublimation of a whole cosmic imagination."(1) Toledo's work swarms with the fauna of the natural and the phantasmagorical worlds, from the Borgesian insectarium to the primeval toad, iguana and panther. His animals inhabit a charmed reality and have become, over the course of the artist's career, an extended metaphor for the profound and supernatural mysteries of life and creation.

The charismatic toad portrayed in the present work harks back to the eponymous and ill-fated toad Tamazul, memorialized in the Popol Vuh, the creation myth of the Maya nation and a fertile and acknowledged source for Toledo's anthropomorphic beings. According to legend, the ancient Tamazul swallowed a louse bearing a message from Xmucane, the ancestral divinity and keeper of the Popol Vuh, to her grandchildren. Swallowed in turn by a snake and then a falcon, the toad was ultimately sacrificed in the course of relaying the divine message, which called the children to appear at a sacred ballcourt. Here, Toledo depicts the unlucky toad fulfilling his appointed mission, the louse dangling from his jaw and his crouching legs poised to spring him into the air. His animistic humanity is poignantly conveyed in his knowing, expressive eyes and by the game alacrity with which he takes up his task.

In separating Tamazul from the rest of the mythic narrative, Toledo accords a dignity and powerful corporeality to the toad, whose body becomes a richly tactile surface environment, earthy and iridescent. The toad's rough, mottled skin is rendered sculpturally through molded deposits of sand, which swell organically across the folds of his body; luminous copper and bronze pigments embellish and define his speckled flesh, enriched by highlights of indigo and ruddy terracotta. The gritty background, in which native vegetation is finely etched into place, further blurs the boundaries between the toad and its larger universe, firmly grounding the creature within the cosmic world. "Toledo perseveres in his animism," notes critic Carlos Monsiváis. "His world is populated with animals which accept being converted into symbols as long as their essence is uncompromised. . . . In the Toledario, animals carry out basic tasks; they are symbols, fantastic zoology, serious and capricious forms of Nature, necessities of fable." (2)

1) E. Billeter, "In the Cosmos of the Animals--The Adventure of the Fantasy," in Fantastic Zoology: Toledo, Borges, Mexico City, Prisma Editorial, 2003, 25.
2) C. Monsiváis, "How Can I Learn from Myself? Thoughts on Painter Francisco Toledo's Libreta de apuntes," in Francisco Toledo: Libreta de apuntes, Mexico City, Fondo de Cultura Econmica, 2003, xvii.

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