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Entries in Post-Modernism (73)


Rufino Tamayo: Strong Colors—Strong Styles

Rufino Tamayo - Women of Tehuantepec - 1939 - Oil on canvas - 33 7/8 x 57 1/8 in. (86 x 145 cm) - Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (click photo for larger image)Mexican Artist Rufino Tamayo (1889-1991) created paintings that draw on Mexican folk art and ceramics for their themes, and for their rich use of color and texture. But their sophisticated compositions are more closely indebted to Cubism. In the 1930s Tamayo painted tropical fruits, perhaps influenced by his experiences as a child working for his aunt's wholesale fruit business. Later his imagery became more grotesque, dominated by animals. From the mid 1940s onwards, he moved towards abstraction and placed greater emphasis on his use of strong colors.

The artist was born in Oaxaca, but following the death of his parents in 1911 he went to live with his aunt in Mexico City. He studied at the Escuela des Artes Plasticas, and in 1921 was appointed head of the Department of Ethnographic Drawing at the Archaeological Museum, which introduced him to folk art. 

From 1936-48, Tamayo was based in New York. Abstract Expressionist Helen Frankenthaler first studied with Tamayo at the Dalton School, and always claimed to owe him a great debt. After an exhibition which marked his return to Mexico (at the Pallacio des Bellas Artes, 1948) was bitterly attacked by the muralists for its disavowal of popular and accessible forms, Tamayo moved to Paris. He finally returned to Mexico City in 1964, donating his collection of Pre-Columbian art to Oaxaca to form the Museo de Arte Prehispanico de Mexico Rufino Tamayo. In 1981 his collection of modern art opened to the public at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. Tamayo was an outsider in post-Revolutionary Mexico, politically neutral and opposing the muralists' commitment to a public, popular art.


Duane Hansen: It’s Alive!

Duane Hanson - Woman Eating - 1971 - polyester resin and fiberglass with oil and acrylic paints and found accessories - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, DCAmerican figurative sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996) created lifelike figures made of cast fiberglass and polyester resin and dressed in everyday clothes. They often fooled the public into believing that they were viewing real people. Because of its faithfulness to reality, Hanson’s work is often categorized with that of the Photorealist painters of the same era, who based their paintings on photographic images.

Unlike the two-dimensional paintings, however, Hanson’s three-dimensional objects, life-size and realistic down to the hair on their arms, are uncanny in that they are simultaneously familiar in their lifelike appearance and yet strange as static works of art.

Hanson’s subjects of the late 1960s were political, including war, gang victims, and the homeless. Though he later tempered his political message, he continued to address the largely thankless roles of the working class—housewives, repairmen, office cleaners, dishwashers, museum guards, and janitors, whose bowed heads and vacant gazes reveal boredom and exhaustion.


Mary Frank: The Emotional Impact of Memory and Loss

Mary Frank - Persephone - 1985 - Terracotta - 27 x 73 x 40 in (68.6 x 185.4 x 101.6 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Mary Frank (born 1933) is a British-born American artist “best known for her abstract paintings and sculptures which depict the emotional impact of memory and loss”. Frank has developed a unique process of creating art in which she works with the medium until the form of the piece reveals itself to her. (The great Renaissance artist, Michelangelo, claimed to have worked his sculptures this way, as well.)

During World War II, Frank was sent from London to live with her mother’s parents in Brooklyn, where she remained for several years. As an art student, she studied under German painter Max Beckmann at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School, as well as under Hans Hofmann, at his private studio school in Greenwich Village. (Both of these artists are discussed elsewhere on What About Art?.

Although Frank was trained as a painter, she was inspired to pursue sculpture after purchasing her first kiln in 1969. Since then, she has been recognized for her dramatic and emotive sculptures of animals and human subjects. Today, her works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Art at Yale University in New Haven, CT, among others. Frank lives and works between Lake Hill, NY and New York, NY


Janet Dawson: Archibald Prize Winner

Janet Dawson - Michael Goddy Reading - 1973 - Acrylic on Bleached Linen - 150 x 120 cm - Art Gallery NSW - Sydney, AustraliaAustralian artist Janet Dawson (born 1935) studied at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School in Melbourne from 1952 to 1956.In 1959 Janet Dawson won the lithography prize at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London University. She had enrolled there in 1956 at the age of 21 after winning the National Gallery of Victoria Traveling Scholarship. The brashness of the contemporary art scene in London was in direct contrast to Dawson's traditional art school background. Overwhelmed, she opted to learn lithography, and her love of drawing meant there was an instant empathy with this gentle graphic medium.

She traveled to Italy where she lived and worked for some months—and abstract art began to permeate her work. At the end of 1960, Dawson returned to Melbourne and established The Gallery A Print Workshop.

In 1973, Dawson won the Archibald Prize with the piece entitled Michael Goddy Reading (a portrait of her husband, the actor and playwright Michael Boddy).


Alma Thomas: A Concentration on Beauty and Happiness

Alma Thomas - Atmospheric Effects I - 1970 - Acrylics and Pencil on Paper - 22 1/8 x 30 3/8 in. - Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington D.C. (click photo for larger image)African-American Abstract Expressionist Alma Thomas (c. 1891-1976) was the first graduate of Howard University’s art department (in 1924). Though she’d always had dreams of becoming an architect—after college she began a 35-year career teaching in a Washington, D.C. junior high school. With the income she supported herself and her art.

Although Thomas earlier works were representational and realistic, she eventually developed her signature style in her 70s—large, abstract paintings filled with dense, irregular patterns of bright colors.

Thomas became an important role model for women, for African Americans, and for older artists. She was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and she exhibited her paintings at the White House three times.

“Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man's inhumanity to man.” - Alma Thomas