Painter, printmaker and activist Francisco Toledo died on Thursday in Oaxaca, Mexico, at the 79. Toledo was considered a bastion of contemporary artists in Mexico. He founded the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca), an organization that houses one of the most important graphic arts collections in Latin America.
The artist was born on July 17, 1940, in Juchitán, Oaxaca and showed an interest in arts since childhood. Toledo developed his skills with the support of his father. He also enjoyed traveling to neighboring towns with his grandfather, who told him fantastic stories about animals and nature. Undoubtedly influenced by these experiences, Toledo’s art often features animals and insects as part of his particular universe.
Back to basics
Toledo studied printmaking in Oaxaca, and later moved to Mexico City, where he started a prolific career in the art world. At only 19 years old, he participated in an art exhibit in Texas. A few years later he received a scholarship to study in Paris, where he worked at the printmaking workshop of Stanley Hayter.
Throughout his life he lived and worked in several places around the world, like Barcelona, Paris and New York, but Toledo never forgot where he came from. By the time he returned to Mexico, he went back to his native town, Oaxaca, where he started working with and learning from traditional artisans, with whom he produced tapestries and ceramic sculptures.
His works belong to several important collections both in Mexico and around the world. People see his pieces at the Tate Gallery in London, The New York Public Library, and the Kunstnaneshus in Norway.
Toledo, the activist
The painter was also known for being outspoken and a social activist who supported democracy, human rights, and the environment. He also believed in the arts and culture as a means to improve society, while providing each all access to these disciplines. He also founded a cultural center in San Agustín Etla, in Oaxaca, in a centuries old building, formerly a textile factory. Here, people can learn about different arts, such as painting, crafts, printmaking, writing, drawing, and photography.