The Fantastic Zoology by Francisco Toledo at Instituto Cervantes in New York

In 1953, Jorge Luis Borges and Margarita Guerrero published the first bestiary from the universal imagination: Fantastic Zoology. Looking into oriental and western mythologies they looked for beasts that arose from the human imagination, although they decided to exclude those that were attributed to human transformations.

Behemoth, ink and water color on paper,24x34 cm

When they visited the Zoological garden of mythologies- “whose fauna doesn’t consist of lions but of griffins and centaurs”- they concluded that “a monster is nothing but a combination of elements of real beings” and that, therefore, “the possibilities of combination art are endless”. However, they noted that “the zoology of dreams is poorer tan the zoology of Gods”.

In The Fantastic Zoology by Francisco Toledo, inaugurated at Amster Yard Gallery of the Cervantes Institute of New York, with the collaboration of The Consulate General of Mexico in New York and Galería Arvil, one of the greatest artist of the 20th Century, contributes to the expansion of the famous bestiary with fantastic creatures originated in the zoology of the land of the oaxaqueñas.The works exhibited were made in 1983, when the Oaxacan artist Toledo tried his hand at illustrating the Handbook of Fantastic Zoology by Jorge Luis Borges (1953), commissioned by Fondo de Cultura Económica de México.

Bestiaries, which were extremely popular during the Middle Ages, date back to Aristotle and Classical Greece. In this manual, Borges and Guerrero put together a collection of beings from a whole range of eras and literary traditions, and also attempt to create beasts based on suppositions of creatures that writers like Kafka, Lewis and Poe might have imagined or conjured up.

These beings were recreated by the fantastic Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo, who had formerly rendered beings inspired by the tradition of his homeland: grasshoppers, lizards, turtles, monkeys. Toledo embraced the complex venture of depicting and coloring the beasts envisaged and created by Borges and Guerrero to produce the magnificent series of drawings and watercolors that structure this show.