New York

Francisco Toledo

Mary-Anne Martin/Fine Art

The art of the Mexican artist Francisco Toledo has rarely been seen in New York in recent years. Fortunately, the situation has been righted by this survey of watercolors painted by Toledo during the last twenty years, with selections heavily weighted toward the 1960s, the decade in which Toledo first emerged with such impact on the Mexican and international art scene.

Few artists can approach the high level of fantasy attained by Toledo throughout this group of watercolors, some of which—including Horses Dancing, ca. 1965-68, Head with Red Background, ca. 1965–68, Flying Tiles, ca. 1965, Woman with Feathered Headdress, ca. 1965, and Woman Floating, ca. 1965—are masterpieces. Only a sensibility attuned to the magical aspects of art, like Toledo’s or Marc Chagall’s, can produce fantasy of such unforced and irrepressible character. Toledo’s roots in Zapotec Indian culture were formative in this respect, and the rich legacy of the myths of his native culturewas reflected here in the organic unity that underscores the expressive force of Toledo’s vision.

In Horses Dancing, for instance, this is manifested in the dynamic synthesis of abstract and representational elements. The rhythmic lines generated by the movements of the horses seem to explode onto the sky-blue surface, reflecting the energy implicit in the image as a symbol of the animistic forces of nature. Toledo’s images often call forth a multiplicity of meanings. He uses the metaphor of the mask in Head with Red Background to reveal the multiple aspects of the self. In Woman with Feathered Headdress archetypal themes of man’s relationship with nature are brought to mind by Toledo’s strikingly direct visualization of the female figure (representing earth) merging with the whirling pattern of colored shapes of the feathered headdress (representing air), a vibrant image which perhaps also represents the unfettered universe of imagination.

Ronny Cohen