Reading Paul Theroux’s On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey, I was intrigued by the writer’s interview in Oaxaca with artist Francisco Benjamín López Toledo. Looking up his work, I was chagrined to see that he had died just three months ago. It is a pity, because I have not followed Mexican art and artists since the classical trio of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros.
Toledo paintings have a uniquely Mexican feel to them, as if they sprang up from the soil like the prickly agave from which tequila and mezcal are distilled.
Toledo’s textures are nothing short of amazing. Yet he remains faithful to the forms his work represents. There is no escape in the unadorned, unrepresenting abstract.
Born in Juchitán, which was recently leveled by several major earthquakes, Toledo was a social activist who threatened to protest naked against the construction of a McDonald’s at the zócalo in Oaxaca. Apparently, the hamburger chain wanted no part of that.