- Joaquín Torres-García
- Signed J. Torres-García (lower left); dated 29 (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
Acquired from the above
After spending the first two decades of the 1900s in Barcelona teaching at the experimental art school Colegio Mont d’Or Tarrasa—which provided him a platform to fervently promote new generations of innovative artistic currents—Torres-García eventually moved to Paris in 1926. The French capital served as a critical arena of introductions and encounters for the artist: not only would he meet Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Michel Seuphor and Georges Vantongerloo, among others, he would also become acquainted with and deeply study Amerindian and pre-Columbian artifacts upon his visit to the popular 1928 exhibition Arts anciens de l’Amérique (Estrella de Diego, “Return to the Native Land: The Invention of an Origin” in Joaquín Torres-García, The Arcadian Modern (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015, p. 98). It should also not be overlooked that the cultural environment in Paris had reached a decisive and polarizing height during this time, with André Breton’s Surrealist brand of figuration at odds with van Doesburg’s purist expression of abstraction. Although Torres-García would briefly align himself with Seuphor to form the group Cercle et Carré and also collaborate with van Doesburg, he would eventually refuse to prescribe and solely devote himself to these campaigns of absolute abstraction and non-figuration proclaiming “I can’t stick strictly to a completely abstract, pure art” (Luis Pérez-Oramas, “The Anonymous Rule: Joaquín Torres-García, the Schematic Impulse, and Arcadian Modernity” in ibid., p. 2) As a result, the body of work from Torres-García’s Parisian residency, and specifically the crucial year of 1929, proved to be ground zero for his artistic production and would outline a period of imaginative and autonomous invention.
In his book, Estructura, Torres-García dedicates a key passage to Mondrian, where he “talks of reconciling Cubism, Surrealism, and Neo-Plasticism.” He writes, “each of these three movements, taken separately, is quite incomplete. For this reason, around 1929, I attempted to unite them…since I understood that was the only way it would be possible to attain a complete art” (Estrella de Diego, “Return to the Native Land: The Invention of an Origin” in ibid., p. 103). Torres-García’s motivation to find his own voice and an “aesthetic” reconciliation to the dominant artistic principles in Europe of the time proved pivotal: in seeking to combine the reason of geometric-abstract construction with the organic and, what he considered, the spiritual intuition of pre-Hispanic aesthetic sensibilities (universalism), Torres created the fundamental principles for his oeuvre from this point onward.
The present painting, Abstraction, executed in 1929, serves as a key example of Torres-Garcia’s completely new plastic approach. He presents to us here a distinctive, reduced grid of forms and eccentric and rhythmic planes of color whose structural arrangements seem both deliberately measured while also limitless in their possibility of order—interspersed planes of black, red, yellow, blue and white, a nod and solution to the Neo-Plastic philosophies of Mondrian and van Doesburg. Moreover this formal, structural arrangement alludes to the most essential quality of Torres-García’s aesthetic philosophy of Universal Constructivism: the fusion of the esoteric, the ancient and the human. Recalling an architectural façade—defined by the artist as a “cathedral”—Abstraction is a clear, foundational expression of the artist’s incorporation of the human and the mystical into his visual lexicon: “fed by the archaic and the ancient… the Neo-Plastic structure itself becomes a figure [and] and a symbol” (Luis Pérez-Oramas, “The Anonymous Rule: Joaquín Torres-García, the Schematic Impulse, and Arcadian Modernity” in ibid., pp. 29-31).