Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern


Joaquín Torres-García. Structures. 1932

Joaquín Torres-García. Structures. 1932. Ink, tempera, and cut-and-pasted paper on paper and cardboard, 9 7/16 × 7 11/16″ (24 × 19.5 cm). Museo Torres García, Montevideo. © Sucesión Joaquín Torres-García, Montevideo 2015

Narrator: During Torres-García’s Paris years he produced several illustrated manuscripts to explain his theory of art—that humans are unique in the sphere of nature because they possess reason, and therefore art exists within both nature and reason. The cover of Raison et Nature, or Reason and Nature exemplifies this approach to abstract art.

Karen Grimson: We can see the cardboard showing on its upper-left corner the symbol of a sun and on its bottom-right corner the symbol of a key. Now, these are not realistic depictions of a key and a sun. They are, rather, the symbolic references to iconic figures, the key representing the theory that he elaborates in this manuscript about art's mission to inscribe nature within the structure of reasoning.

Narrator: Within the paper grid are a number of figures reduced to geometric shapes, like the man in the upper left corner composed of a large square torso, two irregular rectangles for legs, a triangular arm, and a small square head.

Karen Grimson: Together they compose what Torres-Garcia would call the “abstract man,” a man that is led by his heart, his intellect, and his rooting in reality.

Narrator: One passage from the text reads:

Karen Grimson:Inscribing nature within the frame of thoughts, establishing an order, creating non-imitation: this is how art should be.”

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