Agustin Torres Calderón

Agustin Torres Calderón, Trigal, 1997 Courtesy of the ArtistMexican painter Agustin Torres Calderón (b. 1948) has had over seventy exhibitions, but his show this June at the Jadite Galleries in New York City marks his United States debut. Although the self-taught artist has been painting since childhood, it was not until 1994, when he sold the family business, that he has been able to devote himself full-time to art-making and teaching. He presents a weekly hour of art instruction, Pintando con Agustin Torres, on statewide television and teaches at his own academy. He cites as a major influence Jose Maria Velasco, the academic Mexican painter who gave Diego Rivera his early training. The subjects for Torres’ oils and watercolors are drawn from the folklore, countryside and towns of his region. His native Morelia, a small city located 250 miles west of Mexico City, is known for its remarkable colonial architecture. Torres depicts an elegant city square in Despues de Llover en Pazcuaro (1998), in which a graceful arcaded building provides the back wall for a tree-lined plaza, reminding us how traditional piazzas shape the theatre of everyday life. Rather than using the hot colors stereotypically associated with Mexican painting, Torres employs a muted palette. The urban scene is depicted on a cloudy day, the street puddled with rain, and the facades are weathered.

His work will be on view June 21–30 at Jadite Galleries, 413 West 50th Street, New York, New York 10019. Telephone (212) 315-2740. On the web at www.jadite.com. The artist’s website is www.agustin-torres.comThe palette for Paz espiritual (2001) is equally restrained, and the bold composition has the graphic clarity of a great print. The point of view is a darkened church interior with light entering from the unseen world outside. Part of a chair is completely in silhouette; the neighboring silhouette of a holy water stoop is relieved only by a touch of light at the rim. A trapezoidal doorframe, stark in its geometry, delineates the threshold to the foyer, while a rounded wooden door beyond opens to the exterior. Torres is not afraid to use color, however. Tentacion (2002), a long narrow-format close-up of acid-green apples, has a sensual, almost baroque opulence in its rounded masses. Like the oversized fruits and flowers of other Mexican painters (Rivera, Kahlo, Izquierdo) Torres’s apples hint at heroic appetites and paradisal plenty. His landscapes strike a universal chord. Trigal (1997) depicts a field of wheat, dull gold against the muted silver of a cloudy sky. The small figure of a girl can be glimpsed in the distance, in a configuration familiar from scores of Impressionist paintings as well as van Gogh’s pantheistic paeans. The power of nature’s growth is more explicitly evoked in Viento tierno (2004), in which flowing green grasses, starred with yellow flowers, dance in the wind. Torres vividly captures the energy currents that animate the natural world.

American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2005, Volume 22, Number 2