Rufino Tamayo's painting underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s. Most notable among these stylistic changes is the vigorous synthesis endured by the human figure 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.
Painted at the inception of this new period in 1960, Juego de niños (Child’s Play) contains the aesthetic paradox so characteristic of Tamayo’s painting: the simultaneous representation of abundance and scarcity on canvas. His chosen palette of predominantly emerald and ceramic tones, enlivened with fragments of deep yellows and fiery touches of pinks are emblematic of Mexican crafts. The present painting also reveals Tamayo’s high regard for certain technical aspects used in Abstract Expressionism: a dizzying gestural brushwork and a vigorous graffito that ply the painted surface of the picture. The expressiveness of his textures, however, a resource employed by the painter since the forties—and whose use was strengthened during his stay in Paris where he met Jean Dubuffet—is further enhanced by his own experiments with coarse materials which he produced by mixing fresh pigment with sand.
Likewise, this decade marks the introduction of an innovative spatial relationship. For the first time, pictorial space appears not as a neutral scenario but a crowded field of opulent atmospheres inspired by the technical resources of the Abstract Expressionists: drippings, a gestural and looser brushwork as well as a powerful and dynamic sgraffito. Also apparent is a drastic reduction in the use of color in lieu of a more complex tonal range: a prodigious technical innovation in form and composition which would solidify Tamayo’s pictorial maturity at the dawn of a new decade.
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