Digital Gallery Guide



September 21, 2019 - January 19, 2020



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FROM THE EXHIBITION
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TAMAYO AND MIXOGRAFIA

Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991) was a painter, muralist, sculptor and graphic artist who was recognized as a key figure in Mexican post-revolutionary art from the 1920s onward, with a distinctive style that set him apart from the more politically explicit work of contemporaries like Diego Rivera. Tamayo’s continuous experimentation with new materials and techniques led his work to maintain relevance to the artistic scene of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Luis and Lea Remba owned a prestigious Mexico City print shop that transitioned into a fine art workshop in 1968. To cement their reputation, they reached out to Tamayo to collaborate on a series of print runs in 1973. The artist had been working with the graphic arts since 1925 and over the years partnered with a variety of different workshops. However, he had always wanted to use a three-dimensional paper printing process that captured the texture of his paintings, so Tamayo challenged Luis Remba, a master printmaker and engineer, to create one to earn the commission.

Mixografía is the result of this challenge—both a new medium and the Rembas’ rebranded workshop. Named for its ability to seamlessly blend media together, the technique uses a mold to bend paper to the will of the artist, creating prints which incorporate qualities associated with both painting and sculpture. Between 1973 and his death in 1991, Tamayo collaborated with Luis to create a body of over 80 previously unimaginable prints with this new process.

This exhibition looks at how the collaborative efforts of an artist and an engineer gave birth to an entirely new graphic medium. It explores the ways in which this body of work puts into play its distinctive possibilities of textural and technical experimentation and Tamayo’s concise visual vocabulary to address aspects such as gesture and humor, race and Mexican identity, unrest and existentialism.

COLLABORATION: THE BEGINNING

Monologue is an ironic subject for the first true Mixografía ever created. Both the title and the subject matter refer to a single, self-sufficient voice, whereas with this work Tamayo and Luis celebrated a new, successful collaboration between a mature, prestigious artist and a master craftsman.  Print technicians as a rule do not consider themselves artists, but Luis’ solutions to mechanical and industrial problems have a silent beauty to them. This first Mixografía print, and all to come, are the result of hours of creative dialogue between these two professionals.

 

METAMORPHOSIS

The first print Tamayo and Luis collaborated on, Tremulous Woman, is a lithograph with no elements of Mixografía whatsoever. It was not until later in the same year that Luis solved the new medium’s early engineering problems and that Cosmic Ecstasy was made with the print featuring a textured splatter running upwards through its center. After this the metamorphosis happened practically overnight. Distinct forms that had once been differentiable by color alone were suddenly liberated to explore a third dimension like a butterfly that has emerged from its cocoon.

GESTURE AND POSE

The richness of texture that Luis’ Mixografía created allowed Tamayo to revisit figures that he had been painting throughout his career. As he became comfortable working in the new medium it allowed him to incorporate a new expressive dimension in the depiction of his prints' human figures. Originally inspired by Cubist greats like Picasso and a reimagining of pre-Columbian sculptural forms, Tamayo's geometric, sign-like representations of women, men and children—simultaneously devoid of expression and wrought with emotion—epitomize his ability to create nuanced characters with apparently simple means. 

RACE

Despite critics and scholars being quick to emphasize Tamayo’s indigenous heritage, the artist recognized both his Zapotec and European roots. Much of the homage he paid to his ancestry took the very tangible form of icons used by his ancestors, but individual works also speak to race being at the forefront of Tamayo’s thought process. Pairings like White Hand and Black Hand exist in opposition to one another: the white hand is lost deep within a hellish tempest, whereas the disembodied black hand is either being venerated on a pedestal or displayed as a disturbing trophy.

COLLABORATION: THE PROCESS

When it was printed in 1979, Two Figures was almost twice the size of the previously largest Mixografía. The subject is strangely lacking in rhetoric for such a heroic accomplishment. The print depicts two figures awkwardly standing beside one another, each touching their own body, yet symbolically unified by a ghostlike golden aura between them. The success of Tamayo’s earlier Mixografía prints had already drawn other artists to the fledging three-dimensional process. Each artist brought unique challenges for Luis Remba to solve, and each of Luis’ hard-earned solutions demonstrated just how much could be accomplished by two figures putting their heads together.

INVITATIONS

With multiple runs of up to 300 prints each, these small invitations posed a logistical challenge to Mixografía’s standard practice of quality over quantity. These works were made for two occasions: a 1974 retrospective exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the 1981 opening of the then brand-new Museo Tamayo in Mexico City.

MEXICAN ICONS

Tamayo’s Mixografías include many of the traditionally Mexican icons he used throughout his career. True to his poetic nature, he explored the formal qualities of these images to capture their subtleties and invite multiple levels of their interpretation rather than presenting them as stereotypes. His abstractions of still life elements and animals recall the sensory and symbolic richness of Mexican flora and fauna and function as parts of rhythmic geometric compositions. Watermelons simultaneously references the fruit found in Mexican market stalls and his own paintings dating back to the 1920s but is also reminiscent of a Cheshire-cat-like grin. As evidenced by Quetzalcoatl and Estela, Tamayo used pre-Columbian subjects to create works with similarly suggestive qualities.

DIMENSIONALITY AND TEXTURE

The ability of Mixografía to capture the minute details of textures like charred wood, corrugated cardboard, stucco and burlap made working with Luis not just a process, but one of Tamayo’s greatest pleasures. After the Rembas’ workshop closed its doors for the day, the seasoned artist entered and began the night’s work of manipulating objects with atypical surfaces until he fashioned a model he was happy with. Man at the Window is among Tamayo’s most striking Mixografía prints. The idea came to the artist when he found an interesting piece of plastic packaging discarded on a Parisian street and thought it resembled a window. 

COLLABORATION: THE PRINTED MURAL

In 1980 Tamayo proposed the creation of the world’s largest print. Eager to undertake the task, Luis began the slow process of sourcing the required four-ton lithographic stone and redesigning the Mixografía equipment to accommodate the print's record-breaking dimensions. The finished artwork, Two Personages Attacked by Dogs, represents the peak of the collaboration between Mixografía and Tamayo. The Rembas and Tamayos played cards in the evenings, vacationed together and less than a year after the mural-sized print was completed Tamayo painted The Blondie, a portrait of Luis made for the Rembas’ 25th anniversary. The novel process not only expanded the possibilities of graphic media, it built a friendship.

UNREST

Tamayo generally left the significance of his works open to the interpretation of critics, but he explained his motivations for creating prints such as Two Personages Attacked by Dogs to Luis: the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the threat of terrorism, a growing awareness of an environmental crisis, and more. Many of the same vicious creatures represented in the scenes of fire and horror that Tamayo painted around World War II return here to torment man. Other works show figures burdened by grief, shame and madness with rare glimmers of hope shining through the encroaching darkness.

TIME AND SPACE

Tamayo used celestial bodies, saturated colors, and lines of force to express metaphysical and existential reflections in his work long before the moon landing in 1969, but these elements seem to gain intensity after Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man.” The fundamental forms of the moon and sun, whether depicted as circles or adorned with human faces as in Mexico’s traditional lotto game, suggest a range of possibilities in our complex relationship with the cosmos. Other prints grapple with a variety of philosophical subjects. In Clock Without Time Tamayo uses the imagery of an empty timepiece and a repeated infinity sign to meditate on the endless and unknowable qualities of time and space. 

COLLABORATION: THE FINAL YEARS

In 1984, the Remba family moved to Los Angeles to manage a new Mixografía workshop on Adams Boulevard. When Tamayo made the trip to see the Rembas he was upset, telling Luis, “You are too well established here. You will never return home.” Ultimately, Tamayo was right. He had grown accustomed to spending his evenings carving wax molds and building maquettes in the Mexico City workshop, and although this move did not constitute the end of his working relationship with the Rembas, a major part of his life for the past decade had packed up and walked out on him. 

Throughout the latter half of the 1980s the Rembas continued to operate their Mexico City studio under the direction of a friend. Now though, instead of making upwards of 17 print runs with Tamayo per year, each project required significant planning and that the Rembas return to Mexico City to work with the aging artist. Between 1984 and Tamayo’s death in 1991, Mixografía created only one print per year with Tamayo. 

Tamayo’s last prints seem to lament the distance that had come between himself and Luis. Two Brothers and the cosmically charged final Mixografía print, Moon and Sun, suggest his embrace of the partnership that he had originally encountered with skepticism in his first print with the Rembas. At the end of Tamayo’s life, the editions that the artist and engineer produced together made them brothers in a joint artistic venture. Like the complementary relationship of the moon and sun, the process and works they created together generated a creative synergy that opened up countless possibilities for following generations. Today, long after Tamayo’s passing, Mixografía continually revitalizes the dream that Rufino Tamayo and Luis Remba made a reality by providing artists with an ever-evolving platform for the expression of contemporary concerns through graphic exploration.

PROCESS

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ADDITIONAL CONTENT
AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY

TIMELINE

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RUFINO TAMAYO

ABOUT
Mixografia®

The Mixografia® printmaking technique is a unique fine art printing process that allows for the production of three-dimensional prints with elements of relief, texture and very fine surface detail. Since its inception, the Mixografia process has been utilized by many contemporary artists including John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Analia Saban, Jonas Wood, Alex Israel, and more. Rufino’s prints are still on view in the Mixografia studio and revered as the foundational work of a master printmaker.

 

History of Mixografia, Studio and Process
In 1973, Rufino Tamayo was invited to create a series of prints by Taller de Gráfica Mexicana, a print shop founded by the Remba Family whose legacy reaches back to the 1930’s, Mexico City.  Tamayo was eager to incorporate aspects of texture and dimensionality into his artwork and agreed to collaborate under the condition that the studio develop a technique that would allow him to produce his prints in relief.  The shop rose to the challenge by inventing a process that not only allowed Tamayo to create prints in relief, but also registered the artwork’s texture and very fine surface detail. Unable to use commercial paper for this new kind of printing, the Remba family designed and built special papermaking machinery to use in the studio. The name of the print shop was changed to reflect the name of the medium for which it had become known: “Mixografia.”

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Mixografia went on to publish over 80 editions with Tamayo, including the 1983 paper mural “Dos Personajes Atacados Por Perros,” which was printed using the largest conventional lithographic stone in the world, measuring 103 x 63 inches. This stone, on which the artist’s original drawing is still visible, is on permanent view in the Mixografia gallery.

During 1980, the Rembas were approached by Robert Grey, the then dean of the department of fine arts at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Grey wanted to organize an exhibition of Mixografia’s prints at UCLA’s Wright Art Gallery.  With the success of the exhibition, Grey suggested that the Rembas open a studio in Los Angeles.  This space would allow for artists visiting and teaching at UCLA a chance to collaborate with Mixografia and a chance for Mixografia to broaden its reach.  So, in 1984 Luis and Lea moved to Los Angeles to open a second location. Soon after, Shaye Remba—the son of Luis and Lea Remba—moved from Mexico City to join his family in California, and Mixografia began operating out of the newly established printmaking facility in Downtown LA. Mixografia still operates out of this location today and has attracted major names in 20th and 21stcentury art. As artists continued to approach the studio with increasingly creative and diverse ideas for Mixografia prints, Shaye built new machinery and developed techniques to fit the needs of each project.

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Today the workshop, directed by Shaye Remba, continues to attract major national and international artists. Through its dedication, perseverance and desire to set new standards of graphic art, Mixografia has enriched the Los Angeles artistic community and reached audiences all over the world.

Mixografia has produced over 600 unique editions by 89 artists and has exhibited pieces at institutions around the world including Staadliche Kunsthalle, Berlin; Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo, Lima; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; National Museum of Art, Tokyo; Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna; and, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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Dimensions of Form: Tamayo and Mixografia is organized by the Bowers Museum in conjunction with Mixografia®. Exhibition-related programming for Dimensions of Form: Tamayo and Mixografia is generously sponsored by the Latin American Arts Council, an affiliate council of the Bowers Museum.

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