b. 1922, Montevideo
d. Seravezza, Italy
Gonzalo Fonseca was born in Uruguay in 1922 and originally trained as an architect. From 1942 to 1949, he studied with Joaquín Torres García, a famous Uruguayan artist who is considered to be the first Latin American constructivist. Because constructivists conceived art as a practice for social purposes, Torres García used culturally specific languages as a form of achieving cultural independence from Europe. Fonseca, on the other hand, believed in the universality of human symbols and action, rejecting any sort of nationalism.
This belief, alongside his personal interest in archaeology, led him to go on excavations in Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Bolivia and Peru. The influence of ancient African and pre-Columbian architecture is syncretically present in his work, along with the presence of modern-day New York materials and architectural iconography. Fonseca is mostly known for his sculptural work in stone, which are narrative and evocative structures that seem full of mystical meaning.
After his experience with Torres García, Fonseca briefly moved to Paris. Upon winning a Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, he permanently settled in New York, in his Great Jones Street Studio. He would later go on to split his time between New York and a town near Carrara, Italy, where he worked on marble.
Among his important works are the 40-foot tower built for the Mexico Olympics in 1968, and his participation in the 1990 Venice Biennale. He also had a one-man show at the Jewish Museum in New York in as early as 1971. His work is part of the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as others around the world. He additionally has various large pieces in public buildings such as the New School in New York City.