Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)
Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)

Dos mujeres en rojos

Rufino Tamayo (Mexican 1899-1991)
Dos mujeres en rojos
signed and dated 'TAMAYO, O-78' (upper right) titled 'DOS MUJERES EN ROJOS' (on the reverse)
oil and sand on canvas
43½ x 57¼ in. (110.5 x 145.4 cm.)
Painted in 1978.
Private collection, New York.
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 18 May 1994, lot 52 (illustrated in color).
Private collection, Santiago, Chile (acquired from the above).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 21 November 2001, lot 12 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
E. Genauer, "Rufino Tamayo" in Horizon, June 1979, vol.22, no.6, p. 38-39 (illustrated in color).
M-P. Colle, Latin American Artists in their Studios, New York, Hine Editions, 1994, p. 193 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

We are grateful to art historian Juan Carlos Pereda for his assistance cataloguing this work.

For an artist often described as a consummate colorist, Rufino Tamayo worked in a surprisingly limited palette. From grey, blue, yellow and particularly red, Tamayo extracted a rich panoply of radiant tones. This economy of color, Tamayo explained, was liberating for him as an artist, "As we use an ever smaller number of colors, the wealth of possibilities grows. Pictorially speaking it is more valuable to exhaust the possibilities of a single color than to use a limitless variety of pigments."[1] Few paintings from the artist's long and prolific career better exemplify this principle than Dos mujeres en rojos and Dos mujeres (see lot 43). In both works, two rectilinear women stand side by side against a vibrant expanse of red that pulsates with shades of hot pink, dusty rose and vermillion.

Exploring the possibilities of red was a lifelong pursuit for Tamayo. Some of his most iconic subjects, such as his sensuous watermelons, naturally lend themselves to experimentations with the color. Yet, even in his depictions of howling dogs and starry skies, Tamayo played with the full spectrum of red from soft shades of blush to bright cherry and deep scarlet. In some of these works, the color is clearly intended to convey a particular sensation or emotion. Los amantes from 1958, for example, composed entirely of fiery hues, evokes the passion of the two figures who appear entwined in a rapturous embrace. By contrast, Dos mujeres en rojos and Dos mujeres are distinct in that Tamayo has eliminated almost all narrative content, leaving the significance of the color open to interpretation. The hard angularity of the women's bodies and the absence of any touch between them challenges a reading of the work as a study in warmth or tenderness that red might suggest.

Austerely rendered, the two women are the antipode to the voluptuous female nude found throughout art history. They serve as muse to Tamayo's concept of arte puro rather than femininity. A dedicated formalist, Tamayo privileged line, color and form above all else, a practice that distinguished him from his Mexican contemporaries who became known for their arte social-político. Tamayo once said of his aesthetic philosophy, "Painting derives its value from its plastic qualities. Qualities obtained through the process of purification until one arrives at the essence. Ordered plastic essence, along with the poetic, is what I call painting."[2] Dos mujeres en rojos and Dos mujeres, poetically composed of little more than minimal forms and colors, are a testament to Tamayo's ability to create alluring, enigmatic works that express the ideals of arte puro.

1)Rufino Tamayo, quoted in O.Paz, Rufino Tamayo: Myth and Magic, (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1979) 12.
2)Rufino Tamayo, quoted in D. du Pont, '''Realistic, Never Descriptive:' Tamayo and the Art of Abstract Figuration," in exhibition catalogue Tamayo: A Modern Icon Reinterpreted, (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2007) 43.

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