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Francisco Toledo
National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Francisco Toledo, "Serpientes/Serpents," 2016, felt, 6" x 87". Courtesy of the artist and CaSa

Continuing through May 7, 2017

“Hecho en CaSa” is an exhibition of works in felt by Francisco Toledo, though the Mexican artist is not known for his use of textile media. A prolific painter, sculptor, photographer and printmaker, Toledo has also built a multitude of cultural institutions across his native state of Oaxaca, earning the 77-year-old artist the added reputation as a civic hero. The tapestries on display here are recent works produced at Center of the Arts San Agustín (CaSa), an ecology-minded art center Toledo established in 2000.

While felt as a medium is a minor part of his practice, this exhibition’s large-scale pieces are noteworthy for their execution, material tactility and conceptual ingenuity. The indigenous Zapotec traditions of the area are a staple subject matter in Toledo’s oeuvre, and so they are in these pieces as well. Here, ancient Oaxaca wool traditions meet 21st century techniques, with features like hand-tufted corncobs and laser cut grasshoppers layered in simple, graphic compositions. In works like “Quipo blanco,” a corncob encased in a half circle at the top of the tapestry radiates outward, as a league of ascending, pesticide-resistant earworms threatens to devour it. The situation Toledo depicts is both literal and metaphorical. The high-relief tactility of his works enhances his ecological message, making them not just ideas or rhetoric, but tangible and real.

National Museum of Mexican Art

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