Face to Face
Cecilia de Torres presents the exhibition Face to Face, a selection of paintings, wood assemblages and works on paper by gallery artists focused on the human physiognomy. Whether imagined or inspired by a real person, the human face lends itself to countless interpretations. In portraying the face, modern artists struggled with the tension between abstraction and naturalistic representation, deformation and resemblance. This exhibition, which features works created over almost the entire length of the twentieth century (dating from 1920 to 1993), demonstrate various artists' responses to the face with representations that range from the playful to the psychological, from the structured to the fantastic.
An entire wall of the gallery is dedicated to portraits created by Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949). In Manola y Charro (1930), the artist pokes fun at representations of Spaniards, depicting his couple in traditional costumes that evoke zarzuela or flamenco performances. Three portraits from 1939 depict an imaginary personality wearing a 19th century collar; an "everyman" of Montevideo suited with a hat and pipe; and The Gangster whose dangerous character is suggested by his snide smile and squinting eyes. Although these figurative works are less well known than Torres-Garcia's more familiar constructivist oeuvre, all were created using the Golden Section, their proportions manipulated to reveal the essential and personal characters.
Works by artists who studied with Torres-García at the artist's famous "School of the South" are featured across the gallery. In two works by Gonzalo Fonseca (1922-1997) and José Gurvich (1927-1974), the outline of two heads are divided by a grid embedded with a constellation of symbols. Mujer Leyendo (1959) by Julio Alpuy (1919-2009) depicts a woman reading in a rainbow-hued interior, and is exhibited in the gallery alongside the artist's ink and wash related study.
A series of small female heads by fellow Taller Torres-García artist Francisco Matto, (1911-1995) reveals the school's common interest in ancient civilizations. These haunting faces with intriguing eyes were painted near the end of Matto's life, and were inspired by the Roman-Egyptian Fayum paintings for mummy-portraits from the 1st century.
Self-portraits by Alpuy, Torres-García, and the Venezuelan artist and graphic designer Gerd Leufert (1914-1998) provide visual testament of these artist's introspective concepts of the self at various stages in their careers. Notable are the two works by Torres-García. In his 1920 self-portrait created in New York, the artist portrays himself with intense eyes and disheveled hair, asserting his place as an active member of the city's avant-garde art scene. Some ten years later, Torres-García created another self-portrait in his recently developed constructive style. In this work, a gridded structure is filled with autobiographical data such as his date of birth (July 1874) and symbols and words that reference his personal preferences: warmth, harmony, idea, and painting.
Other artworks in the show include watercolors by Cesar Paternosto (1931-lives in Spain) that reflect his engagement with Surrealism as a young artist in Buenos Aires; a painted and wood assemblage by Manuel Pailós (1918-2004) engages with volumetric space; and a painting of a crowd of faces by José Gurvich. Painted in warm golden tones, this last work depicts a group of young Israelis wearing the kova temble, a national symbol in Israel. Gurvich lived in Israel on the Ramot Menasche kibbutz, and this painting reflects his strong attachment to this ideal of collective, rural life.
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b. 1874 Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1949 Montevideo, Uruguay
When Torres-García arrived in Montevideo on April 30, 1934 after forty-three years of absence, Torres-García told the press that he had returned to his native country of Uruguay in order to "develop a wide range of activities, to lecture, to teach courses, to achieve... on walls what I have already achieved on canvas,... to create in Montevideo a movement that will surpass the art of Paris." These lofty ambitions were achieved through the creation of his world famous workshop, the Taller Torres-García, where he taught his theory of Universal Constructivism to future generations of Latin American artists.
Before returning to Uruguay, Torres-García had arrived at the concept of Universal Constructivism after a long development during which his painting evolved from Mediterranean classicism through periods of Vibrationism, Cubism, and Fauvism. A truly global artist, Torres-García lived in Spain, New York, Italy, and Paris, where his theories and aesthetic style culminated into his characteristic incorporation of symbols located in a geometric grid based on the golden section.
The uniqueness of Torres' proposal consisted of his incorporation of essential elements of indigenous American art into the basic principles of European constructivism and geometric abstraction. Today, he is recognized as a canonical figure in both Latin American and modern art in general, with works in prestigious public and private collections worldwide.
An online catalogue raisonné, which includes comprehensive information about Torres-García’s art, exhibition history, and literary references, as well as a chronology with documentary materials related to the artist’s life and career, is available online at www.torresgarcia.com
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b. 1919, Cerro Chato, Uruguay - d. 2009, New York City
Growing up in the Uruguayan countryside with little exposure to art, Alpuy first began drawing at the age of twenty. Within a year, the young artist met Joaquín Torres-García. Inspired by the master's theories of universal constructivism, Alpuy joined the Taller Torres- García, and is today recognized as one of the Taller's most important members.
In 1944, Alpuy contributed two murals as part of the Taller's project to decorate the St. Bois hospital in Uruguay; he would continue to create murals throughout his career. Encouraged by Torres-García, Alpuy and other Taller members travelled to the Andean region of South America in 1945; this experience, along with other periods of travel during the 1950s in South America, Europe, and the Middle East profoundly affected the themes and structural composition of his art.
In 1961, Alpuy emigrated to New York, where he remained for the duration of his life. Alpuy's art has been featured in numerous exhibitions about the Taller Torres-García, as well as in several international one-person exhibitions. His works are included in major international collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, New York; and Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, Montevideo, Uruguay.
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b. 1922 Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1997 Seravezza, Italy
In 1942, Fonseca quit his architectural studies in order to pursue an artistic career. Working under the direction of Joaquín Torres-García, Fonseca joined the artist's workshop, where he participated in the group's collective exhibitions. In 1945 Fonseca traveled with other Taller Torres-García members through Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia to study pre-Columbian art. This experience, along with numerous trips throughout Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa during the 1950s, profoundly affected Fonseca's formal and theoretical approach to art.
Although Fonseca left the College of Architecture in Montevideo as a youth, an emphasis on structure and architectonics is present throughout his oeuvre. As a teenager, he taught himself to sculpt in stone and later returned to such sculptural practices after studying ceramics in Spain in 1953. Fonseca moved to the United States in 1958, and later divided his time between New York and Italy, where he created large-scale marble sculptures.
Artworks by Fonseca are included at The Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museo Municipale, Pietrasanta, Italy; and the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, among other collections. The artist's works are also featured in numerous public spaces around the globe, including Tokyo; Palo Alto, California; New York; Reston, Virginia; and Montevideo.
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b. 1927, Lithuania – d. 1974 New York City
Populated with figures and images that reflect his Jewish upbringing, his participation with the Taller Torres-García, and his profound admiration for the European art masters Breughel and Bosch, Gurvich's artworks combine a unique personal style with technical mastery.
The child of Jewish immigrants, the artist was born in Lithuania and moved to Uruguay with his family in 1932. There, Gurvich excelled at both music and the visual arts, and it was while studying the violin alongside Horacio Torres that the young artist was introduced to Horacio's father, Joaquín Torres-García. Soon after, Gurvich joined the Taller Torres-García, participating in the workshop's exhibitions, writing for its publications, executing mural projects, and teaching. Gurvich's role at the Taller later influenced the creation of his own workshop, the Taller Montevideo, where he taught the next generation of Uruguayan artists.
In 1954 and again in 1964, the artist travelled to Europe and Israel, where he lived as a shepherd on the Ramot Menasche kibbutz. These experiences profoundly influenced the iconography of his paintings and sculptures. Moving to the United States in 1970, Gurvich joined his fellow Taller Torres-García artists Julio Alpuy, Horacio Torres, and Gonzalo Fonseca in New York City, where he continued to produce art until his premature death in 1974.
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b. 1911, Montevideo, Uruguay - d. 1995, Montevideo, Uruguay
A founding member of the Taller Torres-García, Matto studied painting as a child before meeting Joaquín Torres-García, the atelier's founder in 1939. Following this encounter and encouraged by the creative environment at the Taller, Matto's artistic production shifted from his early Surrealist-influenced work to paintings and sculptures with markedly orthogonal compositions; these works were often executed on humble material supports such as cardboard and found wood pieces.
At the age of 21, Matto traveled to Tierra del Fuego and acquired the first Pre-Columbian pieces of what was to become a major collection and an important influence on his art. In 1962, Matto opened his collection of Amerindian art to the public. The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art housed ceramics, textiles and sculpture from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
The Central Bank of Uruguay commissioned Matto to design a silver coin for the F.A.O. (United Nations Organization for Agriculture and Food). It was in circulation in 1969 and won the first prize from the Gesellschaft für Internationale Geldgeschichte, an international numismatic association based in Frankfurt, Germany.
In 1982, Matto was invited to participate in the First International Meeting for Open Air Sculpture in Punta del Este, Uruguay. He made a U shaped form sculpture in cement placed next to the beach.
His recent exhibitions include "Francisco Matto: Exposição Monográfica," 6a Bienal do Mercosur, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2007; "Francisco Matto: The Modern and Mythic," The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, 2009; “Constructed Dialogues: Concrete, Geometric, and Kinetic Art from the Latin American Art Collection," The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, 2012-2013. His work has also been included in group exhibitions in Paris, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany, Moscow, Tokyo, New York, and throughout Latin America.
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b. 1914 Klaipėda, Lithuania - d. 1998 Caracas, Venezuela
Gerd Leufert studied at the Hanover School of Art, where Klee and Kandinsky had been notable earlier graduates. He also studied graphic design at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich. After being conscripted and wounded during WWII, Leufert worked as a graphic designer for various German publishing houses.
Attracted by the economic affluence that the oil boom brought to Venezuela, in 1951, Leufert settled in Caracas, becoming a citizen in 1954. He moved to Tarma, a small town on the Venezuelan coast with the artist Gego, who became his lifelong companion. Their artistic collaborations included large scale public space projects integrating sculpture into architectural settings.
Leufert innovated graphic design in Venezuela, turning it into a dynamic medium using new typography and innovative layout design. From 1958 to 1967 he taught art and graphic design at various art schools in Caracas, and from 1968 to 1973 he served as curator of drawings and graphic design at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas.
In 1989, Leufert was awarded the Venezuelan National Fine Arts Prize. Works by Leufert are included in such public and private collections as the Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection among others.
b. 1931 La Plata, Argentina – lives in Segovia, Spain
After beginning his career working in an informalist mode, followed by a brief period of lyrical figuration, Paternosto first created artworks based on Geometric Abstraction in the early 1960s. By the end of this decade, his formal and theoretical explorations led the artist to push beyond the very boundaries of the medium of painting. Leaving the surface of the canvas blank, Paternosto shifted the emphasis of his artworks to their outer edges, converting his paintings into objects, and rebelling against the inherited tradition of only viewing paintings frontally. Since this breakthrough, he has remained on the vanguard of abstraction in both New York, where he lived for over four decades, and Latin America.
In addition to his career as a painter, Paternosto has studied Pre-Columbian art with academic rigor. This expertise has
not only influenced his artistic practices, but has also led him to assume scholarly and curatorial roles, including the international exhibition, Abstraction: The Amerindian Paradigm. In 2005, the artist moved to Segovia, Spain, where, just a year prior, a major retrospective of his work had been on view at the Esteban Vicente Museum of Contemporary Art. Paintings by Paternosto are found in various prestigious collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland; and the Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany, amongst others.
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