Tamayo was a prolific painter, printmaker, and sculptor whos influences include his own Mexican heritage as well as Cubism and Surrealism of the European modernists. His style is, however, unique focusing on form and color in the depiction of vernacular objects like the animals and fruits of his home country. Tamayo studied color, line, and composition in his still lifes which, over time, became increasingly minimalist. Sculptue came late in life to Tamayo, in this iconic example he presents a familiar form, the watermelon, devoid of color, texture, or detail, but recognizable by its distinctive shape and relates directly to his fascination with the subject which he depicted so many times throught his career.
Sandias was created at the mature age of 90 and this is significant. Often an artist of this age begins to make summation works and upon occasion they stand as iconic and positive statements that encompass what their work was driving toward. Watermelons appeared in the early days of his work and continued to be thematic throughout his career in his paintings. It has been noted that they are a symbol for the artist himself and of Mexico as well, which in this totem like sculpture has a profound statement.
Tall works like this are refered to as totemic and have a certain formality. Interestingly, Tamayo has chosen to use black and negate the color element so critical to the watermelon and to use repetitive form which grounds this piece in a highly contemporary realm. While the black lends a gravitas to the piece which is intentional on the part of the artist, a playful and joyousness lurks. It might even be surmised that this particular model will come to be the best known and most iconic of his sculptural series.
José Sol Rosales
Jose Perez; then by family descent until 2021.
Skinner Auction, Boston MA. 22 January 2021, lot 179
Chicago, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Sculpture and Mixographs by Rufino Tamayo, 14 December, 1990 – 3 February, 1991, fig. 9, p. 4 (another example exhibited and illustrated)