April 23, 2013

Latin American Artists in Nueva York: Orozco and Tamayo

Alright, we left off at Jose Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo, two great Mexican artists. Orozco was considered one of "los tres grandes" (three important ones), referring to the three great muralists of that time: Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco. Siqueiros also was in New York at this time, but since I'm not a huge fan of his work, I won't go much more into him - beyond the little tidbit that he influenced Jackson Pollack with his use of industrial paints, like airplane paint, in his art. Ok, on to Orozco.

Orozco on the East Coast
Orozco lived in New York for a while - 1927 until 1934 and then again in 1940 and 1946.

One of his amazing murals is in a basement room in Dartmouth College. You'd be right to say that Dartmouth isn't in New York; it's in New Hampshire. But the mural he painted there is so amazing - I just have to write about it. It's called "The Epic of American Civilization" and it's 92-feet long. It portrays American civilization from the invasion of Mexico during the conquest to the Mexican revolution to scenes in the United States during the 1930s.

One segment of "The Epic of American Civilization", Jose Clemente Orozco, 1934, via Dartmouth
Orozco also painted scenes of New York life, such as "The Subway." Greg said it's like a jail cell. The dark and dreariness of the scene is very much like Orozco - his themes often have an apocalyptic overtone to them.

What stuck out to me is that the people look blurry and faraway, just like they would if you were trying to avoid seeing other people on a subway car. Beyond just the need to have space in a big city (even if it's only mental space), there's also a survival need there. You never know who you might meet on the subway and whether they are sane, unfriendly, or even short-tempered to the point of being murderous. Orozco shows the distance we place between ourselves and others in this painting.

"The Subway," Jose Clemente Orozco, 1928, via MoMA

Rufino Tamayo in New York

"I went to New York to get to know what painting really was... We were blind here, and New York made me aware of all the trends and currents that existed in those years. It showed me what art was."- Rufino Tamayo (via this New York Times article)
During the late 1920s, Tamayo was being eclipsed by the three great Mexican muralists of his time. There was really no need because Tamayo was an excellent painter who painted in a more universal style than the muralists. He wanted to base his art in principles of modern art, meaning flat compositions and abstract forms. Tamayo lived in New York between 1926-1928 and again in 1936 until 1950.

He exhibited in several galleries in New York and also had a major retrospective at the Guggenheim museum in New York in 1979. Not convinced? Here are two of his paintings that he did while in New York:

"Animales," Rufino Tamayo, 1941, via MoMA
Tamayo painted Animales right in the middle of WWII. It clearly communicates the fear and uncertainty that was rampant at this time in the world. These dogs are clearly hungry (see picked-clean bones at the bottom) and inspire fear in whoever would encounter them, especially in a dark alleyway somewhere. The animals are displayed with cubist lines and sinister colors. These are not your average domestic dogs here.
"Woman with a Pineapple," Rufino Tamayo, 1941, via MoMA
In total contrast, this peaceful scene of a woman with a pineapple. You can really see the influence of Picasso and cubism here. The colors also are interesting - you may never find a face with those types of colors (or shapes) in real life, but that's why it's art. Also, the subject matter evokes Gauguin with his island women.

Next up: Miguel Covarrubias and Joaquin Torres Garcia! Hope you're enjoying my presentation over many blog posts.

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