Collection 1880s–1940s

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Joaquín Torres-García. Construction in White and Black. 1938 594

Glue tempera on cardboard mounted on wood, 31 3/4 x 40 1/8" (80.7 x 102 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in honor of David Rockefeller

Curator, Beverly Adams: My name is Beverly Adams and I'm the Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American art here at MoMA.

Torres-Garcia was an artist who was born in Uruguay and moved to Europe when he was about seventeen years old. What's interesting about Construction in White and Black is that he starts looking at ancient architecture and imagery from the Americas.

So you have this painted grid that's based on the golden section. He has lightly shaded the left sides of the rectangles so that you have this motion, this dynamism, so it's not just flat. This was connected to his interest in Inca architecture, especially Inca stone work. He didn't want to totally eliminate references to the outside world in his work. He always was searching for this balance between the ancient and the modern because he really thought that there were these core parts of humanity that were important to the present moment.

In the bottom right-hand corner, you see the letters "AAC," which stands for the Association of Constructive Art, which is a group that Torres-Garcia founded upon returning to Montevideo in 1934. He was basically trying to reorient this European- or Parisian-centric art world and say that we can create a great school of art in South America, just like they had in Paris. And so his going back to Uruguay was this very important affirmation of the fact that art could be made anywhere and that it could be part of a larger universal dialogue.