Saturday, 6 December 2014

Respect to: Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Mitsukuni Defying the Skeleton Spectre Invoked by Princess Takiyasha-hime
c. 1845

This triptych tells the story of the hero Ōyatarō Mitsukuni, who forces the evil Araimaru to the ground with his sword. By doing so, he drives out the giant skeleton spectre invoked by the sorceress Takiyasha-hime (on the left), and the enchanted palace Masakado collapses. Kuniyoshi’s masterful visual realization of the novel by Santō Kyōden (alias Kitao Masanobu!) already seems to anticipate the principles according to which images would be organized in modern manga.
F. Trikotin, La Tour de Peilz (November 1965)
Riese Collection #109
Taira Masakado was the rebellious third son of the Shōgun Taira no Yoshikado. In 939, after a lifetime of aggression and discontent, he finally declared himself shôgun, setting up a rival court in Kyōto. An expedition was sent out the following year and he was defeated and killed. According to legend, however, he left a daughter, Princess Takiyasha, to whom he had taught his magic and black arts, and who swore, upon her father’s death that she would destroy the ruling dynasty and be avenged. As she was preparing herself for this undertaking she was visited by a young warrior name Ōya Tarō Mitsukuni. Mitsukuni was loyal to the ruling clan, and had come to spy on Masakado’s descendents, but Takiyasha in her loneliness and fixity of purpose supposed that he had been sent in answer to her prayers to serve as an ally. To bind him in her service she made love to Mitsukuni, but all her blandishments were to no avail. When it became clear to her that he had no intention of helping her, that he was a spy and had discovered the secret of her plans for revenge, she realised that she must kill him, and summoning up all the magic arts at her command she tried. Mitsukuni remained resolute and undaunted and survived the ordeal. In this picture he is glaring fearlessly at a gigantic phantom skeleton which Takiyasha, a scroll of magic in her hands, as summoned forth. His sword is pinning down Araimaru, a surviving retainer of Masakado, perhaps now protecting his daughter. It was probably this very lack of fear, not disbelief, that rendered Takiyasha’s phantoms powerless, since all devils and monsters drink their power through our fear, and become, at last, insuperable. In showing Mitsukuni as a very young man, with his hair still tied behind in a pony tail, Kuniyoshi may have paid homage to the fearlessness and purity of youth, where an older man might have fallen to Takiyasha’s charms, or, failing that, become paralysed, and destroyed himself through fear.

Kuniyoshi’s immediate source was probably the kabuki play Yo ni Utō Sōma no Furugosho, a dramatisation of the Mitsukuni-Takiyasha story which was first performed in 1836, and was based in its turn on Utō Yasukata Chūgiden, a novel based in the life of Masakado by Santō Kyōden.
Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 95a.
Another impression is reproduced in Robinson, Kuniyoshi, pl. 43.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

History of Day of the Dead ~ Dia de los Muertos

(according to Wiki)

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to a pre-Columbian past. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.[3] In the pre-Hispanic era skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess[4] known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.

In most regions of Mexico November 1 is to honor children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") but also as Día de los Angelitos ("Day of the Little Angels") and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos ("Day of the Dead").

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.[5]

Plans for the day are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (offerings), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchil (originally named cempoaxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty flowers").

In modern Mexico this name is sometimes replaced with the term Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Mexican cempasúchitl (marigold) is the traditional flower used at honor to the dead

Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or "the little angels"), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of dead"), and sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased.[4] Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrendas food, so though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives. In many places people have picnics at the grave site, as well.

Some families build altars or small shrines in their homes; these usually have the Christian cross, statues or pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pictures of deceased relatives and other persons, scores of candles and an ofrenda. Traditionally, families spend some time around the altar, praying and telling anecdotes about the deceased. In some locations celebrants wear shells on their clothing, so when they dance, the noise will wake up the dead; some will also dress up as the deceased.

Public schools at all levels build altars with ofrendas, usually omitting the religious symbols. Government offices usually have at least a small altar, as this holiday is seen as important to the Mexican heritage.

Those with a distinctive talent for writing sometimes create short poems, called calaveras (skulls), mocking epitaphs of friends, describing interesting habits and attitudes or funny anecdotes. This custom originated in the 18th or 19th century, after a newspaper published a poem narrating a dream of a cemetery in the future, "and all of us were dead", proceeding to read the tombstones. Newspapers dedicate calaveras to public figures, with cartoons of skeletons in the style of the famous calaveras of José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican illustrator. Theatrical presentations of Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla (1817–1893) are also traditional on this day.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls as gifts can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.

José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure he called La Calavera Catrina ("The Elegant Skull") as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Posada's striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catrina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances.

The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal, often varying from town to town. For example, in the town of Pátzcuaro on the Lago de Pátzcuaro in Michoacán, the tradition is very different if the deceased is a child rather than an adult. On November 1 of the year after a child's death, the godparents set a table in the parents' home with sweets, fruits, pan de muerto, a cross, a rosary (used to ask the Virgin Mary to pray for them) and candles. This is meant to celebrate the child's life, in respect and appreciation for the parents. There is also dancing with colorful costumes, often with skull-shaped masks and devil masks in the plaza or garden of the town. At midnight on November 2, the people light candles and ride winged boats called mariposas (butterflies) to Janitzio, an island in the middle of the lake where there is a cemetery, to honor and celebrate the lives of the dead there.

In contrast, the town of Ocotepec, north of Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos, opens its doors to visitors in exchange for veladoras (small wax candles) to show respect for the recently deceased. In return the visitors receive tamales and atole. This is only done by the owners of the house where someone in the household has died in the previous year. Many people of the surrounding areas arrive early to eat for free and enjoy the elaborate altars set up to receive the visitors from Mictlán.

In some parts of the country (especially the cities, where in recent years other customs have been displaced) children in costumes roam the streets, knocking on people's doors for a calaverita, a small gift of candies or money; they also ask passersby for it. This relatively recent custom is similar to that of Halloween's trick-or-treating.

Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items can bring good luck. Many people get tattoos or have dolls of the dead to carry with them. They also clean their houses and prepare the favorite dishes of their deceased loved ones to place upon their altar or ofrenda.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Human skull symbolism

Skull symbolism is the attachment of symbolic meaning to the human skull. The most common symbolic use of the skull is as a representation of death and mortality, but has changed with modern times as in clothing most skulls are designed for fashion rather than the historical symbolism.
Humans can often recognize the buried fragments of an only partially revealed cranium even when other bones may look like shards of stone. The human brain has a specific region for recognizing faces, and is so attuned to finding them that it can see faces in a few dots and lines or punctuation marks; the human brain cannot separate the image of the human skull from the familiar human face. Because of this, both the death and the now past life of the skull are symbolized.
Moreover, a human skull with its large eye sockets displays a degree of neoteny, which humans often find visually appealing—yet a skull is also obviously dead. As such, human skulls often have a greater visual appeal than the other bones of the human skeleton, and can fascinate even as they repel. Our present society predominantly associates skulls with death and evil. However, to some ancient societies it is believed to have had the opposite association, where objects like crystal skulls represent "life": the honoring of humanity in the flesh and the embodiment of consciousness.
The skull that is often engraved or carved on the head of early New England tombstones might be merely a symbol of mortality, but the skull is also often backed by an angelic pair of wings,[2] lofting mortality beyond its own death.

"All is Vanity" by C. Allan Gilbert, 1873-1929
One of the best-known examples of skull symbolism occurs in Shakespeare's Hamlet, where the title character recognizes the skull of an old friend: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest. . ." Hamlet is inspired to utter a bitter soliloquy of despair and rough ironic humor.
Compare Hamlet's words "Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft" to Talmudic sources: "...Rabi Ishmael [the High Priest]... put [the severed head of a martyr] in his lap... and cried: oh sacred mouth!...who buried you in ashes...!". The skull was a symbol of melancholy for Shakespeare's contemporaries.
In Elizabethan England, The Death's-Head Skull, usually a depiction without the lower jawbone, was emblematic of bawds, rakes, Sexual Adventurers and prostitutes; The term Deaths-Head was actually parlance for these rakes, and most of them wore half-skull rings to advertise their station, either professionally or otherwise. The original Rings were wide silver objects, with a half-skull decoration not much wider than the rest of the band; This allowed it to be rotated around the finger to hide the skull in polite company, and to reposition it in the presence of likely conquests.

Sugar skull given for the Day of the Dead, made with chocolate and amaranth
Skulls and skeletons are the main symbol of the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead.
Venetian painters of the 16th century elaborated moral allegories for their patrons, and memento mori was a common theme. The theme carried by an inscription on a rustic tomb, "Et in Arcadia ego"—"I too [am] in Arcadia", if it is Death that is speaking—is made famous by two paintings by Nicholas Poussin, but the motto made its pictorial debut in Guercino's version, 1618-22 (in the Galleria Barberini, Rome): in it, two awestruck young shepherds come upon an inscribed plinth, in which the inscription ET IN ARCADIA EGO gains force from the prominent presence of a wormy skull in the foreground.
Next to the Magdalene's dressing-mirror, in a convention of Baroque painting the Skull has quite different connotations and reminds the viewer that the Magdalene has become a symbol for repentance. In C. Allan Gilbert's much-reproduced lithograph of a lovely Gibson Girl seated at her fashionable toilette, an observer can witness its transformation into an alternate image. A ghostly echo of the worldly Magdalene's repentance motif lurks behind this turn-of-the 20th century icon.
The skull becomes an icon itself when its painted representation becomes a substitute for the real thing. Simon Schama chronicled the ambivalence of the Dutch to their own worldly success during the Dutch Golden Age of the first half of the 17th century in The Embarrassment of Riches. The possibly frivolous and merely decorative nature of the still life genre was avoided by Pieter Claesz in his "Vanitas" (illustration, below right): Skull, opened case-watch, overturned emptied wineglasses, snuffed candle, book: "Lo, the wine of life runs out, the spirit is snuffed, oh Man, for all your learning, time yet runs on: Vanity!" The visual cues of the hurry and violence of life are contrasted with eternity in this somber, still and utterly silent painting.

Vanitas, by Pieter Claesz, 1630 (Mauritzhuis, The Hague)
When the skull appears in Nazi SS insignia, the death's-head (Totenkopf) represents loyalty unto death. However, when tattooed on the forearm its apotropaic power helps an outlaw biker cheat death.[4] The skull and crossbones signify "Poison" when they appear on a glass bottle containing a white powder, or any container in general. But it is not the same emblem when it flies high above the deck as the Jolly Roger: there the pirate death's-head epitomizes the pirates' ruthlessness and despair; their usage of death imagery might be paralleled with their occupation challenging the natural order of things.[5] "Pirates also affirmed their unity symbolically", Marcus Rediker asserts, remarking the skeleton or skull symbol with bleeding heart and hourglass on the black pirate ensign, and asserting "it triad of interlocking symbols— death, violence, limited time—simultaneously pointed to meaningful parts of the seaman's experience, and eloquently bespoke the pirates' own consciousness of themselves as preyed upon in turn. Pirates seized the symbol of mortality from ship captains who used the skull 'as a marginal sign in their logs to indicate the record of a death'

The skull of Adam at the foot of the Cross: detail from a Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, 1435
When a skull was worn as a trophy on the belt of the Lombard king Alboin, it was a constant grim triumph over his old enemy, and he drank from it. In the same way a skull is a warning when it decorates the palisade of a city, or deteriorates on a pike at a Traitor's Gate. The Skull Tower, with the embedded skulls of Serbian rebels, was built in 1809 on the highway near Niš, Serbia, as a stark political warning from the Ottoman government. In this case the skulls are the statement: that the current owner had the power to kill the former. "Drinking out of a skull the blood of slain (sacrificial) enemies is mentioned by Ammianus and Livy,[7] and Solinus describes the Irish custom of bathing the face in the blood of the slain and drinking it."[8] The rafters of a traditional Jivaro medicine house in Peru,[9] or in New Guinea. The temple of Kali is veneered with skulls, but the goddess Kali offers life through the welter of blood. The late medieval and Early Renaissance Northern and Italian painters place the skull where it lies at the foot of the Cross at Golgotha (Hebrew for the place of the skull). But for them it has become quite specifically the skull of Adam.
The Serpent crawling through the eyes of a skull is a familiar image that survives in contemporary Goth subculture. The serpent is a chthonic god of knowledge and of immortality, because he sloughs off his skin. The serpent guards the Tree in the Greek Garden of the Hesperides and, later, a Tree in the Garden of Eden. The serpent in the skull is always making its way through the socket that was the eye: knowledge persists beyond death, the emblem says, and the serpent has the secret.

Symbolism of chance (Fortuna's wheel) divine justice (right angle and plumb-bob) and mortality in a Pompeiian mosaic
The skull speaks. It says "Et in Arcadia ego" or simply "Vanitas." In a first-century mosaic tabletop from a Pompeiian triclinium (now in Naples), the skull is crowned with a carpenter's square and plumb-bob, which dangles before its empty eyesockets (Death as the great leveller), while below is an image of the ephemeral and changeable nature of life: a butterfly atop a wheel—a table for a philosopher's symposium.

"Calavera de la Catrina" by José Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913)
Similarly, a skull might be seen crowned by a chaplet of dried roses, a "Carpe diem", though rarely as bedecked as Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada's Catrina. In Mesoamerican architecture, stacks of skulls (real or sculpted) represented the result of human sacrifices. The skull speaks in the catacombs of the Capuchin brothers beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome,[10] where disassembled bones and teeth and skulls of the departed Capuchins have been rearranged to form a rich Baroque architecture of the human condition, in a series of anterooms and subterranean chapels with the inscription, set in bones:
Noi eravamo quello che voi siete, e quello che noi siamo voi sarete.
"We were what you are; and what we are, you will be."
An old Yoruba folktale tells of a man who encountered a skull mounted on a post by the wayside. To his astonishment, the skull spoke. The man asked the skull why it was mounted there. The skull said that it was mounted there for talking. The man then went to the king, and told the king of the marvel he had found, a talking skull. The king and the man returned to the place where the skull was mounted; the skull remained silent. The king then commanded that the man be beheaded, and ordered that his head be mounted in place of the skull.
In Vajrayana Buddhist iconography, skull symbolism is often used in depictions of wrathful deities and of dakinis.


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Respect to: Rodolfo Nieto

While Rufino Tamayo founded the Oaxacan School, it was Rodolfo Nieto who defined it. Rodolfo added a dramatic tone to skull art. Using light colors fixed against dark hues, he showed the continual battle of life and death. With gaiety, humor, whimsies, and boyhood stories of Tarzan the Ape Man fighting the perils of the jungle, Rodolfo laughed at death while living in the shadows of his own deepening depression.1 Flashes of light confused by color, juxtaposed against the stark black canvasses, he did not attempt to define human existence, but just to live it, knowing that the skull was always within him.2 His painter wife Nancy Nieto removed the fleshy mask of life in order to examine the basis of life, the skull and skeleton.....
Rodolfo Nieto Labastida (b. Oaxaca, July 13, 1936 - d. Mexico City, June 24, 1985) was a Mexican painter of the Oaxacan School (apprenticed under Diego Rivera, later served him as an assistant).

Rodolfo Nieto was born at home in Oaxaca on July 13, 1936. His father Rodolfo Nieto Gris, a medical epidemiologist, left the home mysteriously around 1949. After his disappearance, the family became destitute; his mother, Josefina Labastida de Nieto, a homemaker, moved to Mexico City with Rodolfo and his younger brother Carlos Nieto, a poet, who was later murdered after Rodolfo died; formed a new family & half brother, Ignacio Saucedo was born. In Mexico City, Nieto began studies in 1954 at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda", Mexico City, where he studied with Carlos Orozco Romero and met Juan Soriano, who introduced him to books on European painting. In 1959, he had his first solo exhibition at the Galerías San Carlos.[1]

Desiring to broaden his artistic influences, Nieto moved to Paris in the early 1960s. Here he became friends with artists such as Julio Cortázar, Severo Toledo and José Bianco. He worked at the Atelier 17 with Stanley William Hayter and his discovery of the work of Edward Munch spurred an interest in wood engraving. He also worked at the lithography workshop of Michael Casse for German publisher Manus Press.In Paris away from his indigenous environment, Nieto began to re-think folk art from his native Oaxaca mainly focusing on the brightly painted hand-carved wooden animals known as alebrijes. He combined the alebrijes with the Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan comic strip stories of his childhood.

Nieto wrote: “To Burne Hogarth I dedicate, in memory of the Tarzan stories of my childhood, the series of animals I drew while I was in Switzerland, likewise the xylographs I created in Munich and Paris.”1 Mentally Nieto took apart the structural aspect of the alebrijes and reconstructed them with the whimsy and wonderment of the Tarzan stories. This resulted not only in the Bestiario series of drawing and wood block prints, but established a style of painting that is now incorporated into the Oaxacan School. While in Paris, Nieto won the Biennale de Paris Prize for painting in 1963.[2] He again won the Biennale de Paris Prize for painting in 1968. In 1966, Rodolfo Nieto illustrated “Manuel de zoologie fantastique” by Jorge Luis Borges.Nieto won the Bienal of Caen in 1970 and the Bienal de Menton. He returned to Mexico in 1972, stating that indigenous spirits called "nahuales" were calling him home.

In Europe Nieto had gained fame and recognition in the art world, but in Mexico he struggled despite an exhibition of his work at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1973. A sensitive man, Nieto was crushed emotionally that the Mexican art critiques refused to consider his work seriously. He met his wife, Nancy Nieto, a painter, at the grand opening of David Alfaro Siqueiros Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros in Mexico City. Nieto was invited to Siqueiros' home after the Polyforum event and asked Siqueiros if he could bring along his new friend. Siqueiros said, "Of course." But Nancy preferred to spend time alone with Nieto. Later Nancy regretted not attending Siqueiros' private party. Nancy and Nieto were wed a few months later.2 The new couple developed a deep connection with art, especially Nieto's new genre of Mexican art. However, Mexico was not ready for Nieto's art. “Because Mexico rejected his art, Rodolfo went into a deep depression.”2

Rodolfo and Nancy pressed on. They painted together every day, from the morning until often late into the evening. Nancy helped Nieto stretch and gesso the canvases, sketch the major constructions lines and Nieto would finish the work. Together they created hundreds of paintings. With the frenzy of work, Nieto became exhausted and depressed. His sleeping was erratic, his mind began wondering, seeing things, speaking and acting unusual. He seemed to have an awareness of his life coming to an end. In the Mexican tradition of laughing at death with skull art he began to paint calaveras (skulls) in the Nieto tradition of mentally taking apart the structural elements only to reassemble them in a different perception. His brief life ended on June 24, 1985. One of the last things he told Nancy was “Keep my paintings. Someday they will be very valuable.” Nancy Nieto continues to paint in the Oaxacan style of Rodolfo Nieto.

In 1995, the Museo MARCO in Monterrey held a tribute to the artist to reevaluate his work.

Fernando Gamboa stated that “noise and melody, the human figure and graphic line, expression and invention, reality and fiction are all interwoven in his cavases.”(bancomer)Nieto was part of the Generación de la Ruptura and has been related to the School of Oaxaca, with works based on the myths and legends of the state. He worked in diverse techniques such as pencil, pastel and oil to mixed media and graphics. His work is semi-abstract in the realm of magical realism. While his time in Europe was important for the development of his visual language, it remained based on the colors and images of his native state. After he returned to Mexico, he studied pre Hispanic and popular art which caused him to simplify forms.
(source wiki)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Respect to: Rufino Tamayo

Rufino Tamayo (August 26, 1899 – June 24, 1991) was a Mexican painter of Zapotec heritage, born in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico.Tamayo was active in the mid-20th century in Mexico and New York, painting figurative abstraction with surrealist influences. Tamayo's Zapotec heritage is often cited as an early influence. After the death of his parents, he moved to Mexico City to live with his aunt. Tamayo had no choice but to move and live with relatives in México City, México. While living with them, Tamayo was very devoted to helping his family out with a small business they owned. However, after a while Tamayo’s aunt enrolled him into an art school which was when his career as an artist began. He enrolled at Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas at San Carlos in 1917 to study art.While studying, Tamayo experimented with and was influenced by Cubism, Impressionism, and Fauvism, among other popular art movements of the time, but with a distinctly Mexican feel.Although he studied drawing at Academy of Art at San Carlos as a young adult, Tamayo was very dissatisfied and eventually went to study art on his own. That was when he began working for José Vasconcelos at the Department of Ethnographic Drawings (1921), and was later appointed head of the department by Vasconcelos. Rufino Tamayo, along with other muralists such as Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros represented the twentieth century, in their native country of Mexico.[5] After the Mexican Revolution, Tamayo devoted himself to creating an identity in his work. Tamayo expressed what he believed was the traditional Mexico and did not create more overt political art like his contemporaries, such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, Oswaldo Guayasamin, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. He disagreed with these muralists in their belief that the revolution was necessary for the future of Mexico; Tamayo believed that since Mexicans began the revolution they were only going to get hurt by it. He expressed this belief in his painting, Children Playing with Fire (1947). In this image, Tamayo shows two individuals being burnt by a fire they have created, symbolizing the people in Mexico being hurt by its own choice.[6] Tamayo claimed that Mexico is becoming and will continue to be hurt from a war it created. Tamayo claimed, “We are in a dangerous situation, and the danger is that man may be absorbed and destroyed by what he has created”. Due to his opinion, he was seen by some as a "traitor" to the political cause, and he felt he could not freely express his art, so in 1926, he decided to leave Mexico and move to New York.[3] Prior to leaving, he organized a one-man show of his work in Mexico City, where he was noticed for his individuality.[3] Tamayo returned to Mexico in 1929 to have another solo show, this time being met with high praise and media coverage.

Rufino Tamayo’s legacy in the history of art is truly found in Tamayo’s oeuvre of original graphic prints, in which Tamayo cultivated every technique. Rufino Tamayo’s graphic work was produced between 1925 and 1991 and includes the mediums of woodcuts, lithographs, etchings and Mixografia prints. With the help of Mexican painter and engineer Luis Remba, Tamayo expanded the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the graphic arts by developing a new medium, which they named "Mixografia". The Mixografia technique is a unique fine art printing process that allows for the production of prints with three-dimensional texture.[7] The technique not only registered the texture and volume of Rufino Tamayo's design, but it also granted Tamayo the freedom to use any combination of solid materials in its creation. Rufino Tamayo was delighted with the Mixografia process, and Tamayo created some 80 original Mixographs. One of their most famous Mixografia was titled Dos Personajes Atacados por Perros (Two Characters Attacked by Dogs).[8] In 1935, Tamayo joined the Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios (LEAR). The LEAR was a place in which Mexican artists could express their beliefs through painting and writing towards the revolutionary war and governmental issues that were happening in México at the time. Although Tamayo did not agree with Siqueiros and Orozco, they were chosen along with four others to represent their art in the first American Artists’ Congress in New York. Now married, Rufino and Olga had planned on staying in New York for just a couple weeks while the event passed, however, they made New York their permanent home for the next decade and a half.[9] In 1948, his first major retrospective was done at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and while he was still controversial, his popularity was high. Still uncomfortable with the political differences and controversy, Tamayo and Olga moved to Paris in 1949, where he was welcomed by the artists of Europe. He remained in Paris for 10 years.[3] Tamayo is also known as someone who enjoyed portraying women in his paintings. In his early works, he portrayed many naked women, a subject which eventually disappeared in his later work. However, he also has many paintings of his wife Olga, in which he shows her struggles through color choices and facial expressions. A portrait which can help one see the struggles the two went through is seen in the painting Rufino and Olga, 1934. In this painting, both Olga and Rufino seem broken from past struggles. Tamayo also painted murals, some of which are displayed inside Palacio Nacional de Bellas Artes opera house in Mexico City, such as Nacimiento de la nacionalidad (Birth of the Nationality, 1952

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Respect to: Francisco Benjamín López Toledo

Francisco Benjamín López Toledo (b. July 17, 1940, Juchitán, Oaxaca) is a Mexican graphic artist. He studied at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Oaxaca and the Centro Superior de Artes Aplicadas del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico, where he studied graphic arts with Guillermo Silva Santamaria.

His social and cultural concerns about his home state led to his participation in the establishment of an art library at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO),[1] as well as his involvement in the founding of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO), the Patronato Pro-Defensa y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural de Oaxaca, a library for the blind, a photographic center, and the Eduardo Mata Music Library. Toledo works in various media, including pottery, sculpture, weaving, graphic arts, and paintings. He has had exhibitions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Japan, Sweden, the United States, as well as other countries.

Francisco Toledo painted his subjects as if they were x-rays. Salacious curiosity with the inner being becomes almost pornographic as his erotic and irreverent resurgence of Skull Art comes forward.

For his social and cultural commitment to the development of his home state, he received the Mexican National Prize (1998), the Prince Claus Award (2000) and the Right Livelihood Award (2005).

He is father of poet Natalia Toledo and artists Laureana Toledo and Dr Lakra
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