The Permanent Voyage unpacks its bags in showstopping exhibition at Houston’s acclaimed Art of the World Gallery

Texas debut of Cristóbal Toral brings immigration narrative to life in charged and deeply profound artistic display

HOUSTON — Art of the World Gallery – Houston’s leading gallery of modern and contemporary art – is pleased to present The Permanent Voyage, an exhibition of over 40 paintings by master painter Cristóbal Toral. Toral, a native of Spain, will be on hand to personally present and open his first ever exhibition in Texas. The Permanent Voyage will open Friday, March 23 and run through Saturday, May 19.

Toral’s career spans over five decades and two continents. His breadth of work is etched with common motifs of (cosmic) spacial awareness, varying interpretations of reality, and the unwavering and transitory nature of humanness. All of us are on a journey through life that is never truly stationary, despite the stability and permanence we sometimes feel. His works are permeated with notions of rootlessness and chaos, but also with a tone approaching that of an eerie solitude – the pictorial realism Toral uses to display life as a state of passage.

Punctuating Toral’s works are everyday objects and concepts that evoke this sense of journey: suitcases and the invisible, yet very prominent elements of time and space. In Landscape with Luggage (2017), the entire foreground is replete with suitcases packed so tightly the viewer is forced to question whether these suitcases are just that — suitcases, abandoned in this static space with unknown origins and destinations — or are they alternative, objectified versions of ourselves. Undoubtedly his works today evoke a political commentary on the ever-present subject of immigration: who and what belongs where and when.

Other works present in the exhibition feature Toral’s greater oeuvre and ways of working. From his use of traditional diptychs and triptychs to his surreal re-imagination of the works of his forebears like Velásquez and Magritte, Toral’s use of magical realism brings classics into the modern era.

Ultimately, Toral and his works have defined for themselves an entirely unique movement unrestrained by the period movements that were in full swing during his artistic evolution from Spain to New York. In a sense, he has defined realism for himself, noting the importance of displaying what is real yet not tangible – the space, or lack thereof, between objects and people; our imagination and how whatever exists inside it can be as real as the world around us; and the stillness that can exist in perceived moments of urgency.

Many of Toral’s works echo a sense of sadness, not because the works themselves outwardly display such, but because there is no definite beginning or ending – a permanent voyage. In his own words, “What really interested me was getting to do my own painting, for from a very early age I was fully aware of how important is to find your own world.”

As Art of the World Gallery presents Cristóbal Toral and The Permanent Voyage, we are reminded of Houston and its immense diversity that builds upon itself like the suitcases of Toral’s paintings. So, it is only fitting that in Houston, a modern and contemporary art gallery founded by two immigrants themselves plays host to the incredible and intense depth of Spanish artist Cristóbal Toral.