When compared to earlier compositions painted at the inception of Tamayo’s career in the late 1920s and 1930s, one discerns a dramatic evolution in Dos personajes. Initially, Tamayo’s approach to color was somber, likely the result of a formal experimentation with Cezannesque and Cubist vocabularies. By the 1940s however, his surfaces reveal deeper and more intense hues of red, purples, yellow and blue. More than any other Mexican artist, Tamayo’s treatment of color reflects his years of residence abroad. Having attained international stature in New York during the 1940s, the Tamayos moved to Paris in 1949 where they were well received by artistic and intellectual circles. In the pursuit of a greater simplicity, Tamayo's painting became increasingly de-materialized; by the the late 1960s, his work had evolved to become almost entirely atmospheric, a process which allowed him to emphasize the textural quality of his semi-abstract compositions.
Dos personajes’ exuberant and luminous atmosphere is achieved by the vital contrasts between the purple saturated background and the various shades of greens, crimson and golden ochres emanating from the quadrilateral geometry of two frontal figures. Tamayo's chosen palette of predominantly ceramic tones, enlivened with fragments of deep amethyst and fiery touches of reds are emblematic of Mexican crafts. The present painting also reveals Tamayo’s high regard for certain technical aspects of Color Field painting: vast expanses of pure amorphous or geometric color which envelop the spectator when seen at close quarters. Unlike his North American counterparts Mark Rothko or Clyfford Still, Tamayo accentuated his canvases through the vigorous expressiveness of his textures. This last resource, employed by the painter since the forties—and whose use was strengthened during his stay in Paris where he was deeply influenced by Jean Dubuffet—is further enhanced by his own experiments with coarse materials which he produced by mixing fresh pigment with sand.
Dos personajes conveys the origin of a synthetic period where the anatomy and physiognomy of Tamayo’s characters undergo a rigorous purification. Such economy of forms is surprisingly balanced with opulent Oaxacan color. Masterly achieved by the application of superimposed layers of subtle halftone glazes, Tamayo’s palette reveals his virtuosity as one of the greatest colorists of the twentieth-century.
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