Francisco Toledo, the celebrated Mexican artist known for incorporating pre-Columbian techniques, shamanistic animal imagery and political iconoclasm into his work, and who was a prolific cultural philanthropist in his native Oaxaca, has died. He was 79.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico announced the death on Thursday on Twitter, calling Mr. Toledo “a true defender of nature, customs and traditions of our people.” No other details were given.
Mr. Toledo’s paintings, drawings, prints, collages, tapestries and ceramics were largely inspired by his indigenous Zapotec heritage predating the 16th-century Spanish conquest. Insects like grasshoppers and animals like alligators, monkeys and tapirs, which Mr. Toledo encountered in his childhood, appear in his works as symbols and metaphors of everything from sex and fertility to a dying natural landscape.
The stick-like figures and jigsaw patterns in some of his art also recall the styles of the Swiss artist Paul Klee and the French painter Jean Dubuffet, whose work he saw while living in Europe.
“His images capture the playful immediacy of children’s drawings, with their alluring, unexpected combination of fantasy and sincerity,” Benjamin Genocchio wrote in The New York Times in 2007 when reviewing a Toledo retrospective at the Princeton University Art Museum. “They cast an immediate, joyous spell over viewers, their disarmingly simple appearance gradually giving way to a deeper understanding of an intimate, abstract exploration of the natural world.”
A complete obituary will be published shortly.