Critic’s Choice: Primal lust in the art of Mexican master Francisco Toledo


Francisco Toledo draws with an exquisitely fine line, but boundaries, as a rule, aren’t his thing. In his universe, continuity and fluidity reign. The erotic elides into the comic. A human is just another animal. The internal, psychic landscape assumes external, physical form.

Born in 1940 in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and based in its capital city, Toledo defines his practice broadly too, moving freely among media -- painting, photography, printmaking, ceramics. His works on paper are the focus of a largely exhilarating show now at Latin American Masters.

Among the strongest of the prints is a wonderfully surreal woodcut, etching and aquatint (1984) starring Benito Juarez seated with his feet resting on turtles. Among the clumsiest of the works are recent collages incorporating fish and crab shapes cut from sheets of mica.


At the vibrant heart of the show are 30 ink, watercolor and gouache images from the late 1970s. Their modest scale (about 8 by 10 inches) and earthy tones suit the intimacy of the scenes, fragmented parables permeated by primal lust. A gecko unfurls its tongue to tuck between the legs of a dreaming woman. Rabbits pleasure themselves. Grasshoppers, fish, pigs and more consort with men and women whose impulses are just as naked. With a light and brilliant hand, Toledo often breaks his hair-fine line into short check-marks, like the loose stitches of a world with permeable seams.

Latin American Masters, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 829-4455, through April 23. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.