Joaquín Torres-García - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Bernard and Rebecca Reis, New York (acquired from the artist via Jacques Lipchitz)
    Collection of Barbara Poe Levee, Los Angeles (acquired thence by descent from the above)
    Acquired thence by descent from the above

  • Catalogue Essay

    Joaquín Torres-García, considered the father of Latin American Constructivism, lived in Europe and the United States for almost 40 years before returning permanently to Uruguay. These travels exposed him to different modernist movements including Constructivism, Cubism and Neo-Plasticism, while he was living in Paris and New York. The period between 1926 and 1933 in Paris was Torres-García’s most mature, punctuated by his co-founding (with Michel Seuphor) of the renowned Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) movement, which presented the international art scene with an alternative to the Parisian Surrealists. This resulted in the seminal 1930 exhibition of Constructivist artists, including Joaquín Torres-García, at the legendary Galerie 23 in Paris.

    The present lot, Untitled, 1930, introduces the structures of thick, black orthogonal lines creating a Neo-Plastic grid that organizes Torres-García’s compositions into geometric compartments, reminiscent of Piet Mondrian. Inside these windowed façades, Torres-García includes quotidian symbols—bottles, a pot, an abstract figure and a key—to depict a schematic urban scene from his own imagination. At the same time, the perfectly balanced geometrical plane and earth-toned palette are inspired by Pre-Columbian art, which he considered to be “the perfect synthesis of structure and figuration” (Luis Pérez-Oramas, Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern, New York, 2015, p. 108). The jarring and vibrant chromatic field of pink, gray, yellow and orange, reflects Torres-García’s first experiments with colors that he observed in Peruvian Nazca ceramics. Although seemingly simple, this composition is quite radical as it combines “the European modern-art-practices such as abstraction, to an indigenous artistic legacy, with the aim of creating a sense of timelessness and universality” (Luis Pérez-Oramas, Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern, New York, 2015, p. 108). Untitled, 1930 is thus an emblematic painting that delineates the principles behind Joaquín Torres-García’s Constructive Universalism vision, reminding us of the pivotal contributions that the artist made to modernism, most recently reflected in his 2015 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Joaquín Torres-García: The Arcadian Modern.

  • Artist Biography

    Joaquín Torres-García

    Uruguayan • 1874 - 1949

    Joaquín Torres-García was born in Montevideo and moved to Barcelona with his family, studying at the Escuela Oficial de Bellas Artes. The Catalan Noucentismo movement provided the foundation for his artistic development. His work was also influenced by Neo-Plasticism, Cubism and Vibrationism, which fused Cubism and Futurism with urban imagery.

    Torres-García returned to Uruguay after a 43-year absence. While at home, he continued to develop his iconic style of Constructive Universalism, a chief contribution to modernism that affected many younger generations of Uruguayan artists. This style aspired to establish a universal structural unity through synthetic abstraction. In order to accomplish this, Torres-García synthesized rather than analyzed the quotidian elements and urban scenes from reality. While remaining in the world of figuration, he integrated abstraction's structural grids within the composition, also incorporating pre-Columbian aesthetics.

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signed with the artist's initials and dated "JTG 30" upper left
oil on wood
17 3/8 x 12 1/8 in. (44.1 x 30.8 cm.)
Painted in 1930, this work is number 1930.106 in the Joaquín Torres-García Online Catalogue Raisonné, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Cecilia de Torres.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $300,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
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New York
+1 212 940 1261
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018