“Igarta arrived in the U.S. in 1930 at age 18. In California, he worked in the lettuce farms of San Fernando Valley and the asparagus farms in Stockton. The Great Depression was underway and many Filipino migrant works became jobless after being targets of racial prejudice. In our conversations, Igarta often mentioned a sister he left behind in the Philippines whose advice he never forgot during his most difficult years: "Never beg." Traveling eastward, Igarta arrived in New York City in 1934, jobless and penniless.
Igarta began his art studies in 1937 at the National Academy of Design where he invested his meager salary of $1.50 a day on enrollment costs. The following year, he moved his studies to the Art Students League. He also would come to have his first exhibition in 1938 when one of his watercolors was chosen for a juried show at the Pennsylvania Academy. In May 1942, his "Northern Philippines" was exhibited at the Ferargil Gallery, and then featured in FORTUNE as part of a review. The publicity benefited Igarta as the painting would come to be part of a national juried show at the Met. Subsequently, he would come to show in other major museums and with such renowned artists as William de Kooning, Fernan Leger, Man Ray, Ben Shahn and Rufino Tamayo.
In 1982, he began exploring abstraction as a result of being inspired by Josef Albers' groundbreaking rectangle-based paintings that explored colors' interactions with each other. Igarta often took pride in having painted more color combinations than Albers… Igarta's break from the art world to work for Color Aid, a manufacturer of silk-screened art paper, actually enhanced Igarta's explorations of color; while at the company, Igarta created the paper works now used in many art schools. Igarta could mix colors without the aid of a spectograph and has mentioned how he helped cause two of Color Aid's competitors to go out of business.” —Eileen R. Tabios
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