Modernism Meets Mexican Folk Art in the Work of Eduardo Terrazas

Artsy Editorial
Sep 25, 2015 5:32PM

In Eduardo Terrazas’ geometric yarn-covered panels, squares round off into circles, spheres edge into corners, and color does not always correspond with shape. These abstract compositions slowly unfold across the surface, drawing attention to line and form while evoking the vastness and atomic nature of the cosmos. 

Born in 1936 in Guadalajara, Mexico, Terrazas is also an architect, urban planner, and graphic designer, and these disciplines act as blueprints for his art. A show of his work currently on view at Timothy Taylor includes colorful square, yarn-covered panels made between 1974 and 2015, as well as a recent series of acrylic paintings. The artist’s yarn works emerged out of a collaboration with a traditional Mexican Huichol yarn craftsman, and like the Huichol yarn painters, he coats wooden panels with Campeche wax, then applies vibrant strands of wool yarn arranged in meticulous designs. The compositions simultaneously evoke Mexico, where the artist has lived his entire life—the bright hues of the country’s markets, the folk aesthetic of traditional Mexican weaving—and yet they are removed from the specificity of place, more closely linked to the tradition of modernist geometric abstraction. A sense of place, rather, is distilled into patterns that assume a life of their own. 


Terrazas’ compositions are playful, irreverent, and philosophical—lines break unexpectedly, shapes tessellate and grow, mathematical systems seem to organize space, then break down. With the analytic rigor of an architect and the eloquence of a poet, he utilizes the simplicity of the square to access the philosophical complexity of the circle—a symbol for infinity and expansive space.  The group of works on view, “Possibilities of a Structure,” is divided into four sub-series: “Cosmos,” “Grid,” “Diagonals,” and “Nine Circles.” 

Works in the “Cosmos” series show concentric circles cut by squares and diagonals, pulsing with a sense of gravity and motion, while the “Grid” works are sliced by horizontals and verticals, resulting in varying networks of smaller squares and rectangles that bring to mind Piet Mondrian’s early avant-garde experiments. “Diagonals,” meanwhile, take on a central “X” composition, and “Nine Circles” is something of a combination of the other series. 

Possibilities of a Structure: Cosmos 1.1.11, 1974-2015
Timothy Taylor
Possibilities of a Structure: Cosmos 1.1.13, 1976
Timothy Taylor

Deconstruction of an Image (2014-2015), Terrazas’ most recent work, departs both from the unified square as well as his usual material. A group of six panels painted with tidy black, white, and gray stripes meeting at right angles, it’s a kind of post-modern take on De Stijl, a situationist approach to composition. Split, almost violently, into separate parts and made of acrylic lacquer, these works might read as a cold suggestion of the extinction of Terrazas’ old ways, but they also could be contemporary adaptations of traditional Huichol yarn painting, invigorated by a new tension between the handmade origins of his abstraction and the slick, mechanized appearance of his paint. 

Eduardo Terrazas

Possibilities of a Structure: Grid 1.4.12, 1974 

Timothy Taylor

Here, Terrazas might be reflecting on the paradoxical expansion and contraction of time and space spawned by the industrial revolution. He also asks how has storytelling, literally spinning a yarn, has changed since the advent of modernity. He doesn’t offer easy answers, though, but rather spins firm lines in a spiral, and squares a circle.         

—Himali Singh Soin

Eduardo Terrazas” is on view at Timothy Taylor, Sep. 4 - Oct. 3, 2015.

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