The Madness of Toro

“A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut rope and be free.” – Nikos Kazantzakis


The Madness of Toro: The Gesture on the Canvas Is a Gesture of Liberation
By Ricky Francisco

The private oppression that marks modern life has been spoken about by many existentialists. The rigorous routine that sustains it – commute, work, home – has, for many individuals, become the metaphor of the the rat’s maze where man has been reduced to an insignificant rodent in a Pavlovian experiment of monumental scale. These ritualistic routines though, have invisible roots that sustain them. Sanctified by culture and the values that nourish it, what has become the very glue that provides cohesion to modern society, becomes the cancer that corrodes it from within. The weight of expectations forged from relationships, from the ties that would have ennobled responsibility and the very act of nourishing identity, have been perverted to become chains that shackle a man, a prisoner of his own identity, status, ethnicity and class. Yet there are moments when a man senses these invisible chains, sees them for what they are, and declares “Enough!” That is the moment when he breaks free – a deviant perhaps, or a hero? Ironically, it will be through the eyes of the society that he is escaping from, where he will again be judged as either, and fall again into the trap. But for the moment of “Enough!” he is truly free.

The gesture on the canvas was a gesture of liberation, from Value—political, esthetic, moral.i

The Madness of Toro is rooted in “Enough!” This solo exhibit marks the rebirth of an individual who has shaken off his shackles and creatively claimed for himself a new life, the life of Toro, an artist. The works by Toro are gestural abstract expressionist, action painting as Harold Rosenberg coined it. As such, we should be viewing the works “… by recognizing in the painting the assumptions inherent in its mode of creation. Since the painter has become an actor, the spectator has to think in a vocabulary of action: its inception, duration, direction—psychic state, concentration and relaxation of the will, passivity, alert waiting. He must become a connoisseur of the gradations between the automatic, the spontaneous, the evoked.ii”

There is a certain explosive yet controlled energy that can be seen in the works of Toro. Many of the large canvases which range from 6×6 feet and above, are covered with splashes of paint, that splatter forcefully where they initially meet the canvas, but leave long, wispy trails behind them. To create these there should be enough force to propel the viscous paint to create splatters, enough speed and movement to draw them into thin lines, and enough stamina to continue this in a sustained manner to cover the entire canvas. And the canvases are huge. They immerse the viewer into this sea of swirls, and recreate for the viewer the feeling of walking in a surreal maroon rain, or in another painting, be standing on a giant’s desk and being on top of one of his immaculately white parchments the moment ink spills on it. There is a certain excitement one feels at being so diminutive. It plays with one’s perspective and enables one to see, quite literally and figuratively, a big picture. But one sees pretty much

what one would project, for the canvases are like giant Rorschachs. Each canvas is intimate, a confession in acrylic, a private diary exposed to the public in a code, a private longing fulfilled. Perhaps there is reason for this madness, a reason which we must find out for ourselves. Perhaps, in these troubled times, it is as Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

i Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters” from Tradition of the New, originally in Art News 51/8, Dec. 1952, p. 22 ii ibid