More about Constructive City with Universal Man


Joaquin Torres Garcia is one of those artists that only famous artists know, like the Kardashian dad before the OJ thing happened.

Constructivist City with Universal Man tells us why he doesn’t have the same cred as his peers Mondrian or Mirò; sex sells and Torres Garcia was just too wholesome. This piece is like 10AM educational television with its happy yellow sun, whimsical sky-fish, and people commuting on the train with an unrealistic amount of elbow room.

Terence Grieder said of Torres García that “he contributed to our belief in manipulative experience of childhood education.” Not sure what that means, it sounds illegal. But Greider was definitely on to Torres García’s focus. While the other modernists in Europe were painting the absolute distillation of intercourse, Torres Garcia was educating children. Namely his own children; he had four of them with one wife to whom he appears to have been completely faithful. Talk about a Catholic bore; a bunch of kids, one wife, no lovers. Explains why Picasso didn’t like him very much.

Torres Garcia’s kids seem to have been real terrors, breaking their toys all the time. This bummed Torres Garcia out because 1. He was broke and not trying to blow his savings on new toys and 2. Ever the good dad he thought this was a sign that the toys were deficient (you know, like, it’s never your own kids’ fault). So he started making toys. His figurines were wooden and ~creative~ and kids could move the pieces around into new shapes. They probably paired well with “Beethoven for Babies” and those educational cartoons. The toys were actually a hit in Denmark but the factory burned down and that was the end of that.

Eventually Torres Garcia decided that he and Europe didn’t get along anymore, could have had something to do with Europe’s fascist streak. He moved his little brood back to his native Montevideo in Uruguay where he did the thing that, probably, he’s most famous for. In a fit of vindictive inspiration he drew a cartoon-y outline of South America with the South Pole and Patagonia on top and Panama on the bottom.

It still isn’t sexy, but the continent is shaped like the big middle finger he meant to give Europe and the USA for sticking him in those awful, mid-morning time slots when clearly his art deserved primetime.