September 25, 2009–January 3, 2010
1515 Sul Ross Street
Houston, TX 77006
Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949) is revered today as one of the most influential artists and theorists of the early twentieth century to have emerged from Latin America. A charismatic figure in the international art world, he exhibited with the most famous artists of his time, including Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Marcel Duchamp. Organized by The Menil Collection in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Joaquín Torres-García: Constructing Abstraction with Wood will offer to North American audiences for the first time an exploration of the artist’s wooden constructions known as maderas.
Curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in collaboration with Josef Helfenstein, Director of The Menil Collection, the exhibition will include more than 80 works. Most of these date from the 1920s to the 1940s, when Torres-García lived in Italy, France, Spain, and Uruguay, creating toys and developing the vocabulary for his wooden constructions. These three-dimensional works will be accompanied by a small selection of Torres-García’s oil paintings and a few drawings.
“We are very proud to present this exhibition,” said Menil Director Josef Helfenstein. “Though Torres-García is not as widely known as some of his European peers, he was a crucial figure in the development of an international avant-garde. For many, this exhibition will be a revelation.”
Recognized as a modernist painter, teacher, and author, Torres-García also broke new ground in the realm of wooden constructions or maderas. These deceptively simple arrangements of three-dimensional grids and planes made of painted and natural wood are unconventional with regard to prevailing avant-garde trends that dominated the international arts scene in the 1920s and 1930s. The maderas include small-scale boxes, abstract male and female figures, masks, boxed reliefs, incised and painted wood panels, constructions with painted or superimposed grids, self-standing structures, and assemblages.
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, one of the most intellectual and cultivated cities of the Americas, Torres-García found his artistic voice while studying at Barcelona’s Academia Baixas and Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc from 1893-1898. In 1920 the artist moved to New York with plans to manufacture the wooden toys he had designed, and the following year exhibited at the Whitney Studio Club. He returned to Europe in 1922, settling first in Italy, which he hoped would be a better place to develop the toys, then, four years later, in Paris. In the 1940s, after he had resettled in Montevideo, Torres-García established the Taller Torres-García, a workshop school that promoted avant-garde experimentation, influencing an entire generation of South American artists.
Joaquín Torres-García: Constructing Abstraction with Wood will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. The exhibition will travel to the San Diego Museum of Art, where it be on view February 20–May 30, 2010.
In conjunction with the Menil presentation, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will present an installation of Torres-García paintings from private collections in Houston. The exhibition, Joaquín Torres-García: Paintings in Houston Collections, will be on view September 6-November 29, 2009.
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