When Mexican Muralism took hold of the American art scene and artists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros garnered praise, Rufino Tamayo’s work fell to the wayside. Much different than the muralists’ controversial political stances, Tamayo focused on integrating Mexican and American culture in his work. Living in New York for over 20 years was incredibly transformative. It was the first time Tamayo saw modern European art in person and became interested in the relationship between modern American architecture and gender. “I think that many foreign artists that came to New York … are drawn to the novelty of seeing the modern working woman in a public space. That was very new for artists coming from different countries,” said E. Carmen Ramos, curator of the Smithsonian’s Tamayo: The New York Years exhibit.
While many artists at the time sexualized women or depicted them as anguished, Tamayo showed their modern, fashionable, and family-oriented sides. In one instance, he paints what is thought to be his wife and himself in a loving embrace while also portraying her mental illness as a caged bird.
The exhibit opens today at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and will feature over 40 paintings from Tamayo’s time in New York, including scenes from Coney Island. The exhibition is on view through March 2018. Click ahead to preview the exhibit.