The artist frequently revisited this theme of blissful childhood in his later years, perhaps in a nostalgic reminiscence of his early career as a teacher at the Dalton School in New York. The visual economy of Niña atleta, which is comprised entirely of squares, circles and triangles, both relates to the geometric foundations Tamayo passed on to his students and signifies “the essence of Tamayo’s strived-after universality…which can be traced back to his early (and continued) fascination with pre-hispanic art. The Maya, Aztecs and other indigenous peoples of Mexico were geniuses at expressing the essential qualities of a human figure…with a few lines” (Edward Sullivan, “Paths of Light: The Art of Rufino Tamayo,” in Tamayo: Recent Paintings, New York, 1990, p. 9). The gracefully bowed arms and architectonically harmonious forms of Colima figural sculpture clearly influenced Tamayo's Niña (see fig. 1). Tamayo masterfully combines pre-Columbian aesthetic sensitivities with a modernist treatment of texture and color to monumentalize his youthful heroine.
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