Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern

*Edificio Universal (Universal building)*

Joaquín Torres-García. Edificio Universal (Universal building). 1931

Joaquín Torres-García. Edificio Universal (Universal building). 1931. Oil on canvas, 28 9/16 × 23 5/8″ (72.5 × 60 cm). Private collection, Montevideo. © Sucesión Joaquín Torres-García, Montevideo 2015

Narrator: Torres-García completed Universal Building after the dissolution of Cercle et Carré, the abstract artists’ group he co-founded in Paris.

Karen Grimson: We can see a construction, almost an inhabitable space. We can clearly distinguish a background from a form, and that form is built of planes of color and lines over those planes of colors that don't directly relate to the fields of color in the background but, rather, follow a sequential order.

In building the composition, he makes use of geometric forms, which are the most ancient and anonymous shapes in history. We can't trace the invention or the authorship of these geometric shapes.

By making use of these shapes, the artist is referring to a universal order. So by building a structure in his work, he is replicating the structure that he believes to exist in the universal order.

Narrator: At the time he made this painting, Torres-García called this arrangement of geometric forms his “cathedral style.” He went on to develop it into a system he called Constructive Universalism: structured geometrical compositions that contain an arrangement of universal symbols and forms.

Karen Grimson: He was very much against copying reality and making art an illusion. He believed that art was not supposed to be an illusion but, rather, a concrete form of accessing knowledge.

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