Monday, August 15, 2005

Frida Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera

The story of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo is now well-known. The whims of popular culture has rescued this pair from obscurity, especially Kahlo who up until recently was no more than a footnote in the history of Art. (In my opinion, Kahlo's art, imbued with genuine suffering, will outlast Rivera's)

Rivera has always been well-known but he was but one of a holy trinity of Mexican muralists. The other two were David Alfaro Siquieros and Clemente Orozco. Of the three, I'd always preferred the bolder style of Siquieros and considered Rivera to be more showman than artist - like a Mexican PT Barnum (both in audacity and proportions). Siqueiros could be extreme in a way that Rivera could not - I certainly can't imagine Rivera painting anything like Siquieros' "Echo of a Scream"

Still, I had always dismissed all of the muralists - I love the grand format but the style has always seemed to obvious, too full of easy symbolism. I've always preferred their contemporary, the modernist Rufino Tamayo who fused abstraction with Native symbolism and has produced works that are both gorgeous and vivid with color but can also be terrifying and inexplicable. I've never been able to exorcise the image of Tamayo's primeval hounds from my imagination.

"If I could express with a single word what it is that distinguishes Tamayo from other painters, I would say, without a moment’s hesitation: sun. For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not: night itself is for Tamayo simply a sun carbonized."
-Octavio Paz

There are no works of Tamayo here in San Francisco that I am aware of. But, Rivera and Kahlo paid a visit here. San Francisco is where they remarried. And Rivera had a chance to creatively vandalize some of our walls. The mural at City College is one I have not seen in person. I have seen the image before but had never noticed one thing - Right in the center of the mural, standing as if she is either joining or dividing two worlds, stands Frida Kahlo.

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