This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Joaquín Torres-García Archive of Alejandra, Aurelio and Claudio Torres, signed by Alejandra Torres and dated 18 October 2016.
Torres-García landed in New York on June 16, 1920, drawn by the promise of American modernity after working for more than a quarter-century in Barcelona. He marveled at the metropolis over a whirlwind twenty-two months, lighting immediately upon the city’s commercial pulse and technological innovation. “The huge city, seen from the Brooklyn Bridge is inconceivably fantastic, at night it shines like golden embers,” he wrote shortly after his arrival. “Broadway is a party of lights, each night billboard signs screaming, competing, with each other. This is a new crazy beauty.” The schematic geometry of his New York paintings continued the direction of his recent experiments, with Rafael Barradas, with the urban style they called Vibrationism, characterized by graphic color and proto-constructivist order. Torres-García later pronounced his work from this time as “expressionistic and geometric, dynamic, sometimes depicting reality, and in others a synthesis of it, but already the vertical and horizontal dominate, which will be the basis of other paintings.”
Painted in the year following Torres-García’s arrival in Italy, where he spent a brief interlude before moving to France in late 1924, Port of New York conveys the visual cacophony of the American city: the Brooklyn Bridge stretches to the Hudson River piers; cargo offloads into a maze of tenement buildings lining the docks; a horse-drawn cart moves alongside a train puffing smoke. The bustling port scene teems with the helter-skelter scramble of commerce, its rhythm diffused through a grid-like framework of building facades and punctuated by the letters and numbers of signs and advertisement. A synoptic impression of New York, with his departure foretold in the French Tricolour waving at its center, the painting participates in the transatlantic narrative that saw Torres-García move between Europe and the Americas, ultimately returning to Uruguay in 1934.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park
1 Joaquín Torres-García, New York, ed. Juan Fló, trans. Cecilia de Torres (1921; Montevideo: Casa Editorial Hum/Museo Torres-García, 2007), 68, quoted in Cecilia de Torres, “Torres-García’s New York: The City as Icon of Modern Art,” in Nexus New York: Latin American Artists in the Modern Metropolis, ed. Deborah Cullen (New York: El Museo del Barrio, 2009), 120.
2 Torres-García, Historia de mi vida (Montevideo: Asociación Arte Constructivo, 1939), 214, quoted in de Torres, “Torres-García’s New York,” 110.