For Rufino Tamayo, the still life was not just an artistic genre but the means to pictorial and iconographic experimentation. In his numerous still lifes done from 1928 onward, Tamayo set out to further develop his understanding of and talent for the genre, eventually reinventing a whole new pictorial language.
Naturaleza muerta con dominos - in a European collection - has remained out of public view for generations. It has been reproduced within Tamayo's extensive bibliography, just once in the first book devoted to the artist (1), written by Luis Cardoza y Aragón and published in 1934 by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (Mexico).
In this painting, Tamayo's juxtaposition of disparate elements borders on the metaphysical. Although these may be suspect of a surrealist tendency, Tamayo never considered himself a member of the group. The objects appear dreamlike and enigmatic. Two light bulbs lend an eerie quality to the work, while the dominoes create open-ended associations and the strands of red string evoke a certain feeling of mystery and awe. In addition, a strange bicycle wheel complements the surreal quality of the composition.
The artist's startling array of objects in his still lifes often includes watches, electric light bulbs, telephones, dominoes, playing cards, cigarettes, musical instruments, coffee pots, and occasionally fruits but also worth mentioning, are the puzzling plaster casts of body parts which seem to have a life of their own. The artist's admiration for Cezanne's post-Cubist work is subtly alluded to in his arrangement of dominoes and in the strange electrical wire from which one of the light bulbs is suspended. Unusual, contrary to logic and reason, but imbued with poetic beauty, Tamayo's still lifes constitute an important and poetic foundation for the greatness of his artistic production.
Mexico City, 2006
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