The early breakup of Rufino Tamayo (Oaxaca, 1899 – Mexico City, 1991) with the Mexican muralist movement was more than a simple divergence of points of view. His mythical and poetic vision of the country’s national history, his concept of man as a universal entity, and his drive for an international integration of the arts created an inevitable distance with the philosophy championed by the three main figures of Mexican muralism.
This exhibition shows some of the original sketches of the 20 murals that Tamayo painted, a body of work through which he continued and updated one of the most important artistic movements in Mexico’s history. Some of these murals were never completed for different reasons, while others became icons of Mexican modern art.
In his mural painting, Tamayo created a system of symbols and images that decodify the physiognomy of Mexico’s history and its inhabitants. His practice is more akin to the ciphered image and to poetry than it is to the mimetic depiction of politics and history.
His murals are not narrative and stay away from didactic and referential intentions concerned with politics, history, or folklore. Instead, they are nurtured by the impulse of showing a country filled with profound traditions yet struggling to achieve progress.
Their uniqueness is not only conceptual but technical as well. After using the fresco technique for his first three murals—where the forms are subject to the architecture of the space—, Tamayo revolutionized the medium by painting his murals on canvas and over mobile supports, thus giving the works independence from the walls and the spaces that they were intended for. These large paintings could now be transported.
In his history of mural painting in Mexico, Antonio Rodríguez included a text on Tamayo’s contributions to the muralist movement which he titled En apariencia otro México (Seemingly, Another Mexico). For its accuracy, it is the title given to this exhibition, which presents a brief recollection of an artistic trajectory that expanded the horizons of the muralist movement, modernized it, and reaffirmed its international character.