New exhibit showcases work of Joaquin Torres-Garcia

The work of one of the most influential artists to have emerged from Latin America is on display at The San Diego Museum of Art now through May 20.

“Joaquin Torres-Garcia: Constructing Abstraction with Wood” explores the work of this modernist painter, teacher and author. A charismatic figure in the international art world, Joaquin Torres-Garcia has exhibited with the most famous artists of his time including Antonio Gaudí, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and Marcel Duchamp.

The San Diego Museum of Art is the exclusive West Coast venue (and only one of two U.S. museums) for this exhibition, which was organized by The Menil Collection, Houston in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

It includes more than 80 wooden constructions, or maderas, largely dating from the 1920s to 1940s. The exhibition is the first to offer North American audiences an exploration of these innovative 3-D works, which include small-scale boxes, abstract male and female figures, masks and assemblages. A small selection of Torres-Garcia’s oil paintings and drawings accompany the show to demonstrate the connections between his experiments in two- and three-dimensional forms.

The maderas functioned for Torres-Garcia as a form through which he synthesized a number of ideas encompassing geometric and constructive trends, leading to the development of his own distinctive form of abstraction.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Torres-Garcia spent most of his life in Spain, Italy, France and New York before returning in 1934 to Montevideo. There, he founded the Taller Torres-Garcia, a workshop school that promoted avant-garde experimentation influencing an entire generation of South American and international artists.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog (Yale University Press) featuring essays by Mari Carmen Ramirez, Cecilia de Torres, and Margit Rowell, as well as a chronology and newly translated texts by Torres-García.

If you go

The San Diego Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park. $4.50-$12. (619) 232-7931,