Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991)
Rufino Tamayo is one of the most celebrated pioneers of 20th century Modern Art. At age twenty-two he was named director of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing in Mexico’s prestigious National Museum of Anthropology. It was here he gained the extensive knowledge of his own pre-Hispanic history. This ancient vision of life would influence him as much as his early rejection of the “The Three Greats” (Rivera, Siqueiros & Orozco) and the ideals of the Muralist Movement. With nowhere to turn in his own country, Tamayo went into artistic exile in Europe and New York. Both the ancient visual language and the newly emerging Modern Art vocabulary allowed this artist to emerge as a leading figure in the International Avant-Garde movement.
Rufino Tamayo developed a visual language that concentrated more in symbolism than in popular narrative. He sought a greater depth in simply and elegantly representing his ideas and subjects rather than merely illustrating people, places or events which was one of the goals of the public art muralists and printmakers. Thus Tamayo’s graphic arts embody a separate ideology from that of his contemporaries that can be studied in terms of his accomplishments in easel and mural painting. To printmaking Tamayo brings his painting skills and passion with the brush, further exploring this technical and precise art-making process. The results are a series of contemporary works on paper that celebrate both Mexican and Modern Art concepts. Popular art, pre-Hispanic forms and the Oaxacan landscape all played important roles in inspiring this Modern Zapotec master.