Published: February 13, 2007
The first major US exhibition in nearly three decades of the works of acclaimed Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899–1991), “Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted,” will make its debut at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), its lead organizer, February 17 through May 27.
The first large-scale examination of Tamayo’s oeuvre outside of Mexico in 27 years, this exhibition of 100 paintings and portable murals seeks not only to present a comprehensive look at some of Tamayo’s finest works, but also to offer a contemporary reinterpretation of his complex role and reputation in Twentieth Century art — from internationally admired modernist icon to polarizing figure in certain Mexican intellectual and political circles. In its exploration of the many facets of Tamayo, the exhibition offers a new reading on his accomplishments and influence.
“Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted” comprises Tamayo’s most significant paintings and portable murals created during his prolific seven-decade career in Mexico City, New York and Paris. It presents works from his early, middle 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, influences and innovations, “Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted” 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 Picasso-esque portraits, to his last works, meditations on his own mortality.
The 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, they highlight the contradictions of Tamayo’s life and art.
The international exhibition opened in fall 2006 at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, in celebration of that institution’s 25th anniversary. Following its US premiere at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the exhibition will complete its tour at the Miami Art Museum June 21–September 16.
A fully illustrated exhibition catalog, including essays by leading scholars and curators from both the United States and Mexico, accompany the exhibition.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is at 1130 State Street. For information, 805-963-4364 or www.sbma.net.
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