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“The liberation of the artist” is the title of one of Joaquín Torres García’s “lessons.” In it, he discusses the geometric foundations of Constructivist Art and calls for “setting oneself free” from what has been learned about the “natural order” in art. The Uruguayan master artist advocates embracing an “aesthetic order” released from the figurative.
In this “lesson,” Joaquín Torres García (JTG) explains his “method of measurement” and the geometric-mathematical principles underlying the “golden ratio.” More interesting, however, are the interconnected roles he assigns conscious activity and the liberation of the unconscious in the creative process. JTG emphasizes that the artist’s personality is “dis-covered” insofar as what lies beyond his consciousness is allowed to flow forth. That process must ensue, however, in the narrow space afforded by steadfast conscious control of Constructivist technique. He formulates the idea that while the artist focuses his attention (his consciousness) on the method of measurement and on the application of Constructivist rules, his personality will be automatically manifested in the work, without intending to; the unconscious will be able to flow “as long as conscious activity is concerned with something else.” This demonstrates that JTG did not deny the role of the unconscious in art. Unlike Surrealism, the Uruguayan master artist limits, or cloaks, the unconscious with rational activity. Conscious work, then, becomes what holds back or “contains” the unconscious. Indeed, this conscious focus on the rules and on the application of measurement in the constructive process offsets the temptation to imitate “the visible real” and allows the artist to work in the terrain that, in JTG’s view, is specific to art: the mental and symbolic terrain, the terrain of the order of the signs, one pertinent in his doctrine not only to the aesthetic realm, but also to the artist’s ethics. In this “lesson,” the Uruguayan teacher acknowledges how hard it has been for Uruguayan artists to radically eschew acquired knowledge. Notwithstanding, he makes an appeal in that direction and refers, once again, to Christology: “Just as in mysticism man must die in the flesh in order to be reborn in the spirit (the idea of eternal Christ), so the artist must sacrifice his poor learned baggage to inhabit the abstract and finally come into being.” [For further reading, see the following texts by Joaquín Torres García in the ICAA digital archive: “Con respecto a una futura creación literaria” (doc. no. 730292); “Lección 132. El hombre americano y el arte de América” (doc. no. 832022); “Mi opinión sobre la exposición de artistas norteamericanos: contribución” (doc. no. 833512); “Nuestro problema de arte en América: lección VI del ciclo de conferencias dictado en la Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de Montevideo” (doc. no. 731106); “Introducción [en] Universalismo Constructivo” (doc. no. 1242032); “Sentido de lo moderno [en Universalismo Constructivo]” (doc. no. 1242015); “Bases y fundamentos del arte constructivo” (doc. no. 1242058); and “Manifiesto 2, Constructivo 100%” (doc. no. 1250878)].