Our largest offering of Latin American prints and originals to date comes across the block in our Old Master Through Modern Prints sale May 2. Compiled into a separate catalogue, the material includes drawings by Diego Rivera, scarce Mixografía prints by Rufino Tamayo, works by Roberto Matta and more.
Rivera, who helped establish the Mexico Mural Movement and was a leading figure in Social Realism, was born in Guanajuato in North-Central Mexico. His well-to-do family encouraged his artistic avidity from a young age; his parents installed chalkboards and canvases around the house after coming home one afternoon to find the walls covered in their toddler’s drawings.
In 1897, Rivera began studying at the oldest art school in Latin America, the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City (now the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes). He remained until 1907 (three years before the start of the Mexican Revolution) at which point he left for Europe to continue his practice. Rivera spent most of the next 14 years abroad, mainly in Paris, where he was deeply involved in the thriving avant-garde art scene. He was well-connected to the artistic circle in Montparnasse and was friends with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted several portraits of him in 1914.
The Mixografía technique was invented by Luis and Shaye Remba working closely with Tamayo in 1973. The process involves an artist creating a model or maquette from any combination of materials from which a sequence of plates is then cast and molded.
“As the number of colors we use decreases, the wealth of possibilities increases.”
Tamayo worked with the Rembas to develop Mixografía in order to achieve more surface texture and depth in his printed images. Dos Personajes atacados por Perros, which utilizes the largest lithography stone ever produced, was made from a mammoth stone, measuring 10×6 feet, and weighing 10,000 pounds. The stone still sits in the Mixografía workshop–which was located in Mexico City during Tamayo’s lifetime, but is now in Los Angeles.
Matta was born in Chile, but his surrealist ambitions were informed by the friendships he had with leading Abstract Expressionists and Surrealists, such as Arshile Gorky, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí and Le Corbusier. At the beginning of Matta’s artistic career, after he had left the Merchant Marines, he survived through providing illustrations for Surrealist art journals (such as Minotaure). This undoubtedly informed his later work, as his output reflects both his attention to detail in creating full, almost narrative scenes and his focus on the psyche. His most psychologically poignant series, the Inscape series, was created in the late 1930s and experimented with the concept of showing the artist’s inner psyche as a landscape. The circle of surrealist artists severed ties with Matta after Gorky’s suicide, apparently precipitated by an affair between Gorky’s wife and Matta.
Matta’s later output reveals an increased concern over current events and world politics; during the 1950s and 1960s he traveled between South America and Europe, showing his large semi-abstract canvases that combined both political and psychological elements. These works frequently featured imaginary biomorphic forms in multi-dimensional landscapes that appear to swirl and struggle with tension. His highly imaginative, psychologically fraught oeuvre is among some of the most recognizable Surrealist imagery of the twentieth century.
Additional work by Latin American artists can be found here.