The groundbreaking exhibition Joaquín Torres-García: Constructing Abstraction with Wood explores the work of one of the most influential artists to have emerged from Latin America.

A charismatic figure in the early twentieth-century international art scene, Torres-García exhibited with the most famous artists of his time, including Antonio Gaudí and Pablo Picasso in Spain; Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg in Paris; and avant-garde surrealist Marcel Duchamp in New York.

This groundbreaking exhibition focuses on the lesser-known aspects of Torres-García’s work by emphasizing his development of an aesthetic unique to wood sculptures. Audiences will have the opportunity to discover his innovations in this medium, which not only deeply informed his later practice – the complex art program for which he would later advocate in Uruguay – but also the course of art-making in the twentieth century.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Torres-García left for Europe in 1891, and he spent most of his life in Spain, Italy, France, and New York before returning in 1934 to his native city, bringing a constructivist tradition with him. In Uruguay he founded the Taller Torres-García, a school that promoted avant-garde experimentation and sought to blur the hierarchical distinctions between arts and crafts.

Celebrated globally for his work as a modernist painter, teacher, and author, Torres-García is also known for his innovative wooden constructions (maderas) and inspiring a generation of artists both in his birth country and abroad. Beginning in the late 1920s in Paris, Torres-García began using the language of neoplasticism – adapted from his colleagues Mondrian and van Doesburg – to form a new three-dimensional concept for grids and planes made of wood. The artist’s maderas informed his simultaneous experiments with children’s toys, which he promoted and sold as educational tools for young minds. This exhibition explores how these wooden innovations foreshadowed later artistic developments in Europe and the Americas.

Joaquín Torres-García: Constructing Abstraction with Wood is curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez, and comes to the Museum after being on view at The Menil Collection, Houston, which organized the exhibition in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. We are honored to join the Menil as one of only two institutions where viewers can experience this incredible selection of this artist’s work.

Joaquín Torres-García, Estructura en Colores Puros, 1929, oil and nails on wood. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Gift of Cecil