Rufino Tamayo

169. Tamayo

Biography

The paintings and graphics of Rufino Tamayo have acquired a decisive importance in contemporary art in terms both of its high quality, maintained throughout a long, intense life, and its special significance. He was very clearly one of the greatest of American creators and, at the same time, one of the artists who managed to penetrate deepest into the reality of today’s Man, going beyond his historical dimension. His knowledge of the great pre-Columbian cultures allowed him to make an extraordinary synthesis which forms part of a universalist conception of art. Tamayo sought the essential, which he expressed through a deliberately limited range of colours in order to give the freest possible rein to tonal interplay. His subject matter tends to be simple – figures of men and women, animals -, almost sketchy, although charged with content. Tamayo occupied a privileged situation. He was a modern man, one who had a complete knowledge of a cultural environment – our cultural environment – which he had helped to shape, and at the same time he had a past which in him was present. In that other world of his there were none of the usual clear-cut distinctions between time left behind, present and future. In all the ancient cultures the community was composed of the living and the dead. Nor was there the modern categorical break between men, animals and trees or plants. One might say, writes Jacques Lassaigne, that, in the same way as pre-Columbian art, Tamayo’s painting is at the same time metaphor, geometry and transfiguration. Octavio Paz comments:This is painting as a double of the universe: not its symbol but its projection on the canvas. The picture is not a representation or an ensemble of signs: it is a constellation of forces. Through this double approach, that of the prestigious French critic and that of the great Mexican poet and essayist, the viewer is better able to unravel the mysteries of one of the great artistic creations of our era.