1st Edition

The Art of Joaquín Torres-García Constructive Universalism and the Inversion of Abstraction

By Aarnoud Rommens Copyright 2017
    200 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Intertwining art history, aesthetic theory, and Latin American studies, Aarnoud Rommens challenges contemporary Eurocentric revisions of the history of abstraction through this study of the Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García. After studying and painting (for decades) in Europe, Torres-García returned in 1934 to his native home, Montevideo, with the dream of reawakening and revitalizing what he considered the true indigenous essence of Latin American art: "Abstract Spirit." Rommens rigorously analyses the paradoxes of the painter's aesthetic-philosophical doctrine of Constructive Universalism as it sought to adapt European geometric abstraction to the Americas. Whereas previous scholarship has dismissed Torres-García's theories as self-contradictory, Rommens seeks to recover their creative potential as well as their role in tracing the transatlantic routes of the avant-garde. Through the highly original method of reading Torres-García's artworks as a critique on the artist's own writings, Rommens reveals how Torres-García appropriates the colonial language of primitivism to construct the artificial image of "pure" pre-Columbian abstraction. Torres-García thereby inverts the history of art: this book teases out the important lessons of this gesture and the implications for our understanding of abstraction today.

    1. Introduction: The Routes to Roots of Joaquín Torres-García’s South American Abstraction

    2. Constructive Universalism’s ‘Theoretical Eye’: Vitalism, Arkhétectonics and Grafismo

    3. Tactics of A-Semiosis

    4. Writing/Drawing the Universal by Hand: Abstraction’s Unruliness

    5. Emblematics, "The School of the South" and the Inversion of Maps

    6. Thick Grids and the Scrapbooking of the Universal

    Conclusion: Reverting South


    Aarnoud Rommens is BeIPD-COFUND/Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellow at Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres, University of Liège, Belgium.