The exhibition is composed of three thematic axes: In search of the Archetype, From Mexico to the Universe, and By a Geometry of Space, which point out the ways by which Tamayo transited giving account of the experimentation, dynamism and search in the field of geometry and the abstraction.

1 | In search of the Archetype
Tamayo is first and foremost a painter of the human figure. In the portrait, he incorporates not only formal innovations but also questions of existential, sensory and even metaphysical nature. His first models, of indigenous physiognomy, preserve the trace of a youthful apprenticeship as an ethnographic artist in the Museo Nacional. The volumetric proportions, the bulky drawing and the scarce palette of his beginnings, are giving way to a growing synthesis that tends to allegory: reflection on the place of the individual in society and the paradoxes of the human condition, if there is one; but Tamayo mainly assigns to the silhouette the function of movement factor in the image. The human becomes a mere sign, dematerialized and sometimes asexual.

RufinoTamayo is above all a painter of the human figure. His portraits not only incorporate formal innovations but also present questions of an existential, sensory or even metaphysical nature. His first paintings of indigenous models conserve references to his early education as an ethnographic draftsman at the Museo Nacional. The proportions of the volumes, the simplified outlines and the reduced range of color of Tamayo’s early works, gradually evolved towards a greater synthesis that tends to be allegorical: a reflection of the individual’s place in society and of the paradoxes of the human condition. However, Tamayo uses the figure mainly as a way of depicting movement in the image. The human silhouette is transformed into a mere sign, dematerialized and sometimes genderless.

2 | From Mexico to the Universe
In opposition to the narrative style that prevailed in historical painting, he introduced a dynamic, uncluttered composition that exposed its own inner structure. He refused to represent the physical world that we are all familiar with. He decided instead to explore the visual, painterly quality of things by transposing them to the canvas, while also paying attention to their realistic depiction: showing them as belonging to their time, part of an industrialized, mechanized world shattered by two World Wars, under the looming threat of the atom bomb.

His canvases increased in size in order to accommodate the scope of his broader vision. His dramatic images reveal a tension in their rhythm. Whether they are pensive, joyful or distraught, his figures inhabit a virtual world teetering on the edge of life and death—a world that is at once lavish and monstrous, not devoid of a macabre sense of humor.

3 | By a Geometry of Space
Tamayo’s paintings overflow with references, incorporating pre-Columbian architecture and sculpture, folk art, representations of small-town baroque style and industrial civilization,along with the geometric fragmentation practiced by avant-garde artists like Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Tamayo’s style set a precedent with his dazzling use of color—which lent the image its expressivity as well as its underlying structure—but also with his incorporation of sand, which added a delicate texture to his oils. He became an authority due to his masterly visual synthesis, his lyrical spirit and his impeccable technique. Most importantly, his body of work lays claim toan irrepressible freedom in the practice of his craft. His independence served asa model for younger artists—Manuel Felguérez, Pedro Coronel, Lilia Carrillo, Rodolfo Nieto, Vicente Rojo, Francisco Toledo—who formed part of the movement known as the Ruptura and who saw him as a harbinger of their own struggles and experiments with abstraction.


© MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORÁNEO DE MONTERREY, 2016 | Zuazua y Jardón S/N, Centro. Monterrey, N.L. Mexico, 64000 | Ph. +52 (81) 8262.4500

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