in David’s words…
This morning before our departure I managed to squeeze in visits to two museums – the Museo Torres Garcia and the Museo Gurvich.
Joaquin Torres Garcia, who was born and died in Montevideo, was one of the most important artists of the first half of the twentieth century who founded the art style known as Constructivist, or Universal Constructionism. He is widely regarded as Uruguay’s most important artist.
On a personal note, Torres Garcia was the not only the teacher of Gurvich, but also of Gonzalo Fonseca, who was the father of our very close friend, painter Caio Fonseca, a festival artist both in Menlo and earlier in La Jolla.
Torres Garcia taught rigorously and impressed upon his students the importance of proportion. He left many diagrams illustrating the basic principles, and to this day, Caio Fonseca begins his beautiful abstract works by laying out grids which guide the painting’s proportions.
Seeing Torres Garcia’s work revealed to me the inspiration behind the sculptures of Gonzalo and the paintings of sons Caio and Bruno. It was an incredibly enlightening experience which deepened my understanding and admiration of the work of the Fonseca family.
With the rest of the day free, the quartet enjoyed a relaxing flight to Sao Paolo in Brazil, the third country on our tour, and the fifth largest in the world. Colonized by the Portuguese in 1500, the main language spoken here is still Portuguese, apparently with hints of Italian in this city, as Brazil has the largest population of people of Italian heritage outside of Italy. The quartet is completely lost without a translator.
Cultural life is intense here, with an international art biennial, and important contributions to classical music, pop music and literature. At the same time we are in Brazil, the International Literary Festival “Flip” is welcoming 34 international authors (including Alex Ross to present “The Rest is Noise”) and the gigantic Winter Festival, in its 40th season, presents 45 concerts in 22 days.
Our tour takes us only to Sao Paolo and for not even a whole day to Rio de Janeiro, so we will not experience this country’s diverse sights and regions, such as the Amazon Rainforest, with its incredible wildlife, the mountain regions, and the great rivers, including the Amazon. In Brazil lives the largest number of people in any country who have no contact with civilization – 67 tribes at last count.
Sao Paolo (Saint Paul) is the largest Latin American city with a population of twenty-one million. Founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1554, it is now the center of Brazil’s business world. It is filled with skyscrapers, and from horizon to horizon, densely packed neighborhoods.
Sao Paolo became a city officially in 1711 – the same year in which Stradivari made the “Duport” cello. The nineteenth century saw a flood of immigrants from many European countries, as well as from Japan, who came to work on the flourishing coffee plantations. (Slaves from Africa had done work until 1888, when slavery was abolished). Lebanese, Syrians, Greeks, Koreans and Chinese also came in the early twentieth century, and Sao Paolo now is the most ethnically diverse city in Latin America, with people of more than one hundred different cultures.
We enjoyed playing two sold-out concerts, for one of the best audiences I have ever met, in the extraordinary Sala Sao Paolo, a stately old train station ingeniously converted to a state-of-the-art concert hall by means of the clever and tasteful additions of floor and box seating on many levels, and a moveable ceiling. Brazilian arts organizations enjoy a practically unparalleled opportunity for private and corporate support because of the country’s tax laws, which reward arts donors with significant tax deductions.
The quartet was presented by the Sociedade de Cultura Artistica, a 90-year-old organization that saw to our every need and desire. One could not possibly experience more gracious and attentive hospitality.