Rufino Tamayo: The New York Years


This November, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be holding a show for Rufino Tamayo entitled, Tamayo: The New York Years.  

The show will feature 42 works by Rufino Tamayo in an attempt to showcase the effect New York played on Tamayo’s work during the period of time he lived and worked in the city, and to highlight Tamayo’s pivotal role in shaping post-war modern art. 

Why Tamayo Left Mexico City

Tamayo moved to New York City from Mexico City in an attempt to escape the highly political Mexican art scene.  

When Tamayo left Mexico he was viewed by many of his contemporaries as a traitor for his lack of political focus in his artwork. Tamayo clearly veered from artists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros in an attempt to focus his work on the aesthetic. 

Rufino Tamayo in New York

From the mid 1920’s to 1949, Rufino Tamayo made New York his home.  

In New York City, Tamayo taught at the Dalton School and Brooklyn Museum, was heavily influenced by European masters such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Henri Matisse, and explored surrealism and cubism, refining the marriage of Mexican folk art with European modernism that he is internationally recognized for to this day. 

The New York Years Exhibition

The exhibition at the Smithsonian will showcase works from Tamayo’s early days in Mexico City, leading up to his time in New York City, juxtaposing dream-like paintings influenced by Pre-Colombian and Mexican folk art with urban themed works influenced by European modernism an themes such as cubist and surrealism.  

The show will highlight the pivotal shift New York played on Tamayo’s trajectory as an artist, and the impact Tamayo has had on the international art world moving forward.