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Joaquin Torres-García

Uruguayan, 1874–1949

© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid

Abstract Art in Five Tones and Complementaries, 1943

Oil on board
20 1/2 x 26 5/8 inches (52.1 x 67.6 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Armand J. Castellani, 1979

When Joaquín Torres-García developed his own theory of art, which he called Universal Constructivism, his goal was to found a truly Latin American art that would incorporate human experience. He felt that geometry was the most effective and universal means to achieve that goal. Focusing on what he called "spiritual geometry" rather than strictly mathematic geometry, Torres-García created a system of abstraction that incorporated symbols filled with personal and national history and meaning.

Abstract Art in Five Tones and Complementaries is typical of his style. The saw at the upper left refers to human production in general, and carpentry in particular; both his father and grandfather were carpenters. The stylized ancient pot on the right is one of his most commonly employed symbols, reflecting the pre-Hispanic cultures of South America. Often grouped with a hammer or compass, it also more generally refers to culture and labor. The hourglass form at the lower left is a sign for the intellect. The words in the painting announce his origins and priorities: MONTEVIDEO is his birthplace; ARTE ABSTRACTE the style in which he paints; SIGLO XX is the twentieth century; and his initials and the date of the work are also incorporated as design elements.

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