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Alejandro Núñez Alonso addresses the significant impact of Mexican art abroad. Both European critics and the public had been pleased with this great exhibition—Arte Mexicano en Paris [Mexican Art in Paris], 1952—with a full panorama of Mexican artwork covering a complete timeline. In the paragraph, "Tamayo and the Three Greats," the writer states that the works by the painter from Oaxaca represent an absolute divorce from the aesthetic principles of social realism. What is more, Tamayo seems to be situated and well defined in the exhibition as the only painter who is authentically, essentially Mexican. His painting Homenaje a la Raza India [Tribute to the Indian Race] was presented as a happy combination of a monolithic stone and an airy canvas. According to the writer, there was no other painting in the show that was comparable in the way it plays with this metaphysical force.


Above all, the curator Fernando Gamboa (1908-1990) defended figurative painting, painting that transmitted a certain message. We may observe the outcome of his aesthetic opinion in his selection of contemporary art, through which it was very clear that Mexican creativity must respond to a "realistic need, remote from anything academic or abstract." At that time, "Mexicanness," had to be linked to the social and human content of the artwork. Thus, to Gamboa, abstract art had no place in the national aesthetics because he considered it to be a language without social content, a language that was dehumanized.

Based on this perspective, he chose Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) as the painter who simultaneously represented the face of modernity and that of Mexicanness. Tamayo’s semi-figurative style, which had nothing to do with ideological doctrines, offered a way out of the polarized debate between figuration and abstraction. It also displaced political painting from the terrain of international modern art.

Ana María Torres
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Promotora Cultural Fernando Gamboa