November 9, 2004– March 20, 2005

Museum of Latin American Art

628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 437-1689, Fax (562) 437-7043
Contact: Susan Golden <>
Web site, <>

© Heredero de Rufino Tamayo, “Luna nueva (New Moon)”, 1951, oil on canvas, 40 x 31 1/2 inches.
Private Collection, Courtesy of Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, New York.

Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was one of the greatest American creators and, at the same time, one of the artists who managed to penetrate deepest into the reality of today's Man, transcending his historical dimension. His knowledge of the great pre-Columbian cultures allowed him to make an extraordinary synthesis between contemporary and ancient art, achieving a universal conception of art.

“Rufino Tamayo: The Search for the Essence” will focus on paintings, sculptures and works on paper made during the 1930s through the 1980s.

“Fine art’s essence arranged in a poetic milieu, within the precious limitation that encloses a piece of art, that is what I call a master painting”, says Rufino Tamayo. Stylistically, Tamayo simplifies color and form, to create schematic representations, without undermining the profound strength of his subject matter. That is because Tamayo’s representative use of the figure is substantial in his search for the essence of humanity, which he expresses in themes such as the relationship of man with the cosmos or the brevity of life, both an important axis in his work. “Rufino Tamayo: The Search for the Essence”, will expose another vision towards the work by this artist, the search for an essence through form and content.

Guest curator:  
Teresa del Conde, Ph.d, former Director Museum of Modern Art, Mexico

Vip Opening:  Saturday, November 6, 2004
Members Opening:  Sunday, November 7, 2004  
Open to the  Public:  Tuesday, November 9, 2004  
Closing date:  Sunday, March 20, 2005

Number of works, medium:            
70 pieces including oil on canvas, sculptures and a selection of 40 Mixografias from the Remba collection.

Essay from the catalog:  
Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Los Ángeles; Exposición Mixográfica RUFINO TAMAYO.  30 de septiembre de 1991

Rufino Tamayo’s graphics represent an independent segment of his work that should be looked at in conjunction with his contributions in the easel and mural painting mediums.  His excursions into the realm of graphic art are a logical consequence accompanying his development as a painter.  Because of his particular interest and prolificacy in making prints and the serial nature of the process, his graphic work has tended to enjoy a far wider distribution, and therefore greater accessibility to the general audience that have his paintings.

Equally significant is the fact that lithography, etching and particularly mixography represent processes that in a technical sense allow the artist definite forms of solutions.  Tamayo permits the characteristics of these art forms to fully develop without sacrificing his own style.  Graphic art in its various forms has its secrets and limitations subjecting it to a different form of aesthetic standard than exists for paintings.

In printmaking Tamayo is able to bring his capability for synthesis into play by exploring the discipline through his love of painting and taking full advantage of all its various possibilities.  His exceptional sensibility in creating a surface composed of light, color and material structure in no way comprises its two-dimensionality.  His prints retain the firm and elegant strokes of the brush, and despite an undeniably contemporary character are still as convincing today as those of the cave artists and the artist of the pre-Hispanic period.

Tamayo has never been alien to aspects of handcrafts, which are probably of more importance in the graphic arts than they are to any other art form.  From the first idea of a chalk drawing on stone or an etching on a copper plate through the different levels of applying ink, Tamayo observes and uses the physical properties of the material and the tools.  He monitors each step in the printing process in detail; in order to avoid the artistic achievement slipping through is hands.  His graphic works, in addition to his own personal style, exhibit traces of each step from the image’s first conception in the mind of the artist to the moment when it becomes the final printing plate producing the numbered works.

According to his own statement, Tamayo meets “a challenge in his studio.”  In his endeavors he never allows his work to become stereotyped.  If burned wood is used as matrix as in “Hombre con Pipa” (Man with Pipe) the result is a picture of a “fading” red where the background becomes a hazy hue and turns into a mist at the edges reminding one of smoke.  Similarly in “Hombre en Gris” (Man in Gray) he creates the gray shape of a man on a lead plate coated with rust and cinder.  The gloomy shadings are brightened by a silvery moonlight evoking images of astral and cosmic bodies, or perhaps suggesting a soul enveloped in lead, visible only to those who like Tamayo, are alchemists and demiurges.

For Tamayo, since 1974, Mixography printing became an era of constant experiments and renewals.  This new graphical form of expression was developed in Mexico by Luis Remba at Tamayo’s instigation and suggestion.

Mixography, as the name indicates, is mixing, since it allows combination of different techniques and the use of flatbed, intaglio and relief printing and texture on one single plate.  Furthermore it is that form of graphic art that brings about an effect that resembles painting the most.  Therefore since Tamayo began as a painter, several of the works done in this technique are among the best Tamayo has created.  

One of these “Dos Personajes Atacados por Perros” (Two Characters Attacked by Dogs) deserves international recognition as a milestone of this century’s graphic art.  The format nearly approaches the size of a big mural and the structure, figurative representation and subtle colors combine to create a symbol rich in meaning and form of expression.

The tactile as well as the morphological aspects of this graphic and of other works by Tamayo provoke a number of sensitive reactions.  They also generate the desire in the viewer, regardless of background, to understand the poetical universe that underlies the development of this great creator of the 20th century.  Even through the compact reality of such a simple but noble material as paper, Tamayo is able to transport his viewer into magic formations of time and space.

--Teresa del Conde
Director, Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, Mexico

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