Francisco Toledo: Fantastic Zoology (Zoología Fantástica)
The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University will present Francisco Toledo: Fantastic Zoology (Zoología Fantástica) from May 4–June 15, 2003 Organized by the government of Mexico and presented in both English and Spanish, the exhibit will feature 46 watercolors by Mexican contemporary artist Francisco Toledo (b. 1940). The paintings depict creatures found in the Handbook of Fantastic Zoology by Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986).
Borges was one of the most important and influential poets, essayists and short-story writers in the Spanish language during the 20th century. First published in 1957, the Handbook of Fantastic Zoology (Manual de Zoología Fantástica) was his attempt to catalogue all the mythical creatures of history and legend. The original edition listed 82 imaginary animals along with in-depth explanations of each. Subsequent editions under a different title, The Book of Imaginary Beings (El libro de los seres imaginarios), expanded the list to include more than 100 creatures.
In 1983, Francisco Toledo decided to try his hand at illustrating the strange and bizarre creatures of the Handbook. The artist was already a successful printmaker, painter, sculptor, ceramist and draftsman known for his interest in Surrealism and in combining ancestral traditions with modern myth. He considered it a challenge to his imagination to visually shape what Borges had described in words. However, instead of literally following Borges’ specifications, Toledo created his own interpretation of each animal. The resulting 46 watercolors incorporate elements of fauna from his homeland, such as iguanas, scorpions and turtles, and include the metamorphic creatures characteristic of his art; they also clearly show his penchant for emphasizing the sexual anatomy of his creations.
The works also reflect Toledo’s skill as a watercolorist. He chiefly uses earthy colors, gently spreading them over the paper to explore a diverse range of tones. As in his drawings, he also makes frequent use of stitched lines as contours for various elements of the composition.
Fantastic Zoology has been made possible by Galería Arvil, The Department of Visual Arts and Exhibitions of the Mexican Government, The Meadows Foundation, SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and the members of the Meadows Museum. All text in the exhibition will be in both English and Spanish. The exhibition has toured throughout Europe and comes to the Meadows Museum from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico; from Dallas, it will travel to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.
Image: Ink Monkey, 1983, El mono de la tinta, ink and watercolor on paper / tinta y acuarela sobre papel, 9 7/16 x 13 3/8 in (24 x 34 cm) © 2003 Francisco Toledo/Licensed by VAGA, New York, New York