Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted
February 17 – May 27, 2007

1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Director: Phillip M. Johnston
Contact: Katrina Carl, Public Relations Manager, 805.884.6430 /
805.963.4364, Fax 805.966.6840
Web site,
Hours,  Tuesday - Sunday 11 am-5 pm, closed Monday.

Rufino Tamayo, Amigo de los pájaros (Friend of the Birds), 1944, oil on canvas.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Associates, The Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art. © Herederos de Rufino Tamayo.

The first major U.S. exhibition in nearly three decades of the works of acclaimed Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991), Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted will make its worldwide debut at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA).
The first large-scale examination of Tamayo’s oeuvre outside of Mexico in 27 years, this exhibition of 100 extraordinary paintings seeks not only to present a comprehensive look at some of Tamayo’s finest works, but also to offer a contemporary reinterpretation of this world-renowned, modern artist—from internationally-admired icon to polarizing figure in certain Mexican intellectual and political circles. In its exploration of the many facets of Tamayo, the exhibition offers new readings on his accomplishments and influences.     
Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted comprises Tamayo’s most significant paintings created during his prolific seven-decade career in Mexico City, New York and Paris. It presents works from his early, mature and late periods, spanning the 1920s to the 1980s. The largest section of the exhibition profiles the most notable period of Tamayo’s career, the 1940s and 1950s, when he developed a new form of abstract figuration that made him one of the most recognized and respected modern painters.
A comprehensive view of the artist’s achievements and innovations, Tamayo offers viewers a window onto the artist’s many geographic and creative trajectories—tracing Tamayo’s artistic evolution from the earliest paintings he made— impressionistic landscapes and Picassoesque portraits—to his last works—meditations on his own mortality. The exemplary paintings on view conjure familiar images of Mexico—its colors, textures and centuries of indigenous and hybrid culture—that demonstrate Tamayo’s emphasis on the aesthetic and philosophically symbolic aspects of art, rather than its narrative potential for conveying powerful messages about radical social change (favored by his peers José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros).  At the same time, Tamayo’s life and art mirror those struggles that Mexico fought in shaping the country it envisioned itself to be after its successful Revolution in 1920.  The controversies that he and his paintings fueled were created by different views of modernism and modernity that emerged and were debated in Mexico as it attempted to define itself as a nation in the twentieth century.
Related Event:

Sunday, March 4, 2007, 1 – 4 pm
Tamayo Community Celebration
The plaza behind the Museum’s Park Wing entrance will come alive with the colors and sounds of Mexico as we celebrate the exhibition Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted.  Enjoy art activities, traditional refreshments, the pre-Columbian rhythms of Luis Pérez, folkloric music of Oaxaca and Veracruz with Cascada de Flores, and regional dances of Mexico performed by Quetzalcoatl.

A fully illustrated catalogue, published by SBMA in association with Editorial Turner  de México, includes essays by leading scholars and curators from both the United States and Mexico.  The 464 page publication will be printed in both English and Spanish and will be sold through the Museum Store.  For ordering information, please contact, or call 805.884.6454.

Credit Line:
Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in collaboration with the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, through the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico, and the Fundación Olga y Rufino Tamayo, AC. It is curated by Diana C. du Pont, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, with Juan Carlos Pereda, Curator of the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo.
The exhibition and accompanying publication have been made possible through the generous support of Larry and Astrid Hammett, Houston and Anne Harte, Jon B. and Lillian Lovelace, Eli and Leatrice Luria, Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, The Challenge Fund, The Cheeryble Foundation, The Grace Jones Richardson Trust, the National Endowment for the Arts, an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and an anonymous donor.

For further information and/or press photos, please contact Katrina Carl, Public Relations Manager at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art at 805.884.6430 or

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