I’ve thought about sharing these for a long time, and yesterday’s Dia de los Muertos post inspired me to do it. They aren’t postcards, but I keep them with my collection. The business card-size prints, each with an accompanying description card, are lotería-like adaptions of paintings by the Oaxacan figurative abstractionist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991). Mama Snail found them at a farmers market and swap meet. The description cards suggest they’re for children, perhaps originally from a museum gift shop. But they’re unevenly cut, so maybe they were defects. I like the mystery.
Unlike his contemporaries Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo ultimately saw the Mexican Revolution as detrimental to the masses. For this reason, he was widely viewed as a traitor in the Mexican art world at the time. In 1926, he moved to New York where he felt he could paint and print (making many lithographs, woodcuts and etchings) more freely. When he returned to live in Mexico in 1959, he was considered one of the country’s master artists. Rufino Tamayo in 1945My rough translation: “This simply beautiful painting shows mother, father and their baby–a family portrait. The father is rendered in an elegant suit and the mother has a flower behind her ear. Do you think it is a special occasion? Tamayo’s parents were Zapotec indians. Sadly, his mother died of tuberculosis when Tamayo was twelve years old and he went to live in Mexico City with his aunt. Without question, the colors and [Zapotec] history and culture of his parents never left him.”
The card is a detail from Familia, 1926This painting is Hombre que canta (Singing Man), 1950. “When Tamayo was a boy, he and his family shared a house with followers of the general of the Mexican revolution Emiliano Zapata. These men, called zapatistas, played their guitars and sang songs of the Revolution and of their hometowns, which awakened a lasting interest in music in the young Tamayo. Many of Tamayo’s paintings contain music or musical instruments like this: Singing Man. Look closely at the guitarist. What musical instrument does he remind you of? If you could hear his song, what song would it sound like?”
“Tamayo painted watermelons many times all through his life. He probably remembered them from childhood, when he helped his aunt sell fruit in a market in Mexico City. The colors of the watermelon (green, white and red) are the colors of the Mexican flag. Perhaps that’s why Tamayo painted them, so that Mexico was always with him.”
The card is a detail from Nueva York desde la terraza (New York from the Terrace), 1937.“Do these growling dogs scare you? Why do you think they are growling? What are they protecting? Tamayo painted these dogs during the Second World War, when it seemed that the whole world was fighting and was angry, just like these dogs. He used art to express his feelings. Tamayo painted dogs many times during his career, at time ferocious, at times friendly. He kept them as pets. He was also influenced by the animal forms used in ancient Mexican pottery. Everything from pots, to vases to toys had dogs. He studied these early clay pieces when he worked as head of the drawing department of the Museum of Archeology, History and Ethnography, in Mexico City.”
This card is a detail from Animales (Animals) 1941. “Tamayo was fascinated by the sky and what are called the “cosmos.” He saw in the stars, the sun and the moon, an undying connection with the ancient Mexican people. He also saw an equally strong tie to the future, the exploration of space and the men walking on the moon. This painting, Night and Day, is full of opposite pairs (like night and day in the title). How many different pairs can you find? In the part at the bottom of the painting, Tamayo rendered the curve of the Earth, like an astronaut observing it from space. At the same time, he captured the eternal magic of a shooting star. Have you ever wished on a star or seen the face of the man in the moon?”