BARCELONA.- Torres-García. Crossroads brings together more than 80 works, mainly drawings, many of them unpublished, from the collection of Alejandra, Aurelio and Claudio Torres, as well as paintings and wooden constructions. The show explores the Uruguayan-Catalan artists creative process, from his beginnings in Modernisme and his Noucentista period to his recognition as one of the pioneers of avant-garde art.
The exhibition looks at the essential features of Joaquin Torres-García's career as an artist, which takes in the first half of the 20th century. Torres-García (Montevideo, 1874-1949), who trained in Barcelona during the Modernista period, was a key figure in the Noucentista movement. After leaving Catalonia in 1920, he set out along a path that was to lead him to become one of the pioneers of geometric abstraction, along with artists like Mondrian, Van Doesburg and Hélion.
The aim of this exhibition, which is arranged as a series of crossroads marked by choices historiography often considers as opposites, is to give the visitor a close-up view of the inner workings of the artist's creative process and analyse the way Torres-García, faced with these 'crossroads', decided to take new paths without ever entirely abandoning the ones he had already travelled. This wish to add together dualities or opposites became an essential feature throughout his work, a production in which reason and nature, abstraction and primitivism, the eternal and the temporal, classicism and modernity all overlap and become integrated. Following the artist's footsteps on a creative path that covers the first half of the 20th century, the exhibition explores the contrast and the synthesis, or underlying equivalence, between 'classical beauty' and 'modern beauty'.
The first part of Torres-García. Crossroads analyses what we might call the artist's apprenticeship. The crossroads or poles during this period correspond to certain specific moments in his life, such as the years spent in Barcelona and New York. The exhibition shows how Torres-García evolved towards classicism without abandoning his original commitment to Modernisme. It also explains how he integrates his view of urban life and explores the duality between the contemporary and the classical. The second part is devoted to his mature years and analyses the myths and the ideas that form the basis of his poetics: Nature, Reason and the myth of Atlantis.
Torres-García, a modern master
Born in Montevideo of a Catalan father, Joaquin Torres-García arrived in Catalonia in 1891, when he was 16. He trained as a painter in Barcelona during the Modernista period and his first exhibited works, such as Woman Dancing (1900), clearly identify him with this style and with its poetics. In 1912, Prat de la Riba commissioned him to decorate the Saló de Sant Jordi of the Palau de la Generalitat (the Catalan government building), a job that kept him busy for for more than five years. Thanks to this, Torres-García became the figurehead of Noucentisme, a movement that aspired to transform and modernise Catalonia during the early part of the 20th century and which began life, as Eugeni d'Ors noted, as a reaction against Modernisme. When he returned to easel painting in 1916, his work adopted the new avant-garde tendencies that were stirring things up in the art scene in Barcelona at that time. After 1920, when he left Catalonia at the age of 50, his life was marked by constant moves between America and Europe. From 1920 to 1922, Torres-García lived in New York. During that period he produced a portfolio of drawings with the title New York City, in which the artist captures the feverish pace of life in the great city. In New York, Torres-García hoped to find the means to set up a company that would manufacture the original toys he designed. This was in line with another project of his that sprang from the same keenly felt educational vocation, the Mont d'Or school he founded in Terrassa.
After his stay in New York and two years spent in Florence, Torres-García arrived in Paris at the end of 1926 determined to get his toy business off the ground. During the six years he spent in the French capital, crucial years for his artistic development, he became one of the main driving forces behind abstract art between the wars, which centred around two associations, Abstraction-Création and Cercle et Carré. In this context, Torres-García frequented artists like Van Doesburg, Hélion and Seuphor, who defended a form of geometric abstraction that diverged from the more expressionist abstract art that had been in vogue in the years before the First World War. These artists proposed a new concept, which they called 'plastic expressionism', whose signs of identity were serialisation and mechanisation and which questioned the traditional status of painting and sculpture. Torres-García shared these artists' rationalist approach, but whereas the classical philosophical tradition that nurtured their thinking opposed the rational to the natural, he merged the two poles to integrate nature into reason. As a result of his constant reflections on art, Torres-García's work never stopped evolving, exploring the paths of abstraction to make up a language of his own which he called 'constructive art'.
Finally, after a period spent living in Madrid (1932-1934), Joaquin Torres-García returned to his home town of Montevideo, where he helped to spread the ideas of modernity throughout the South-American continent.