Alicia Amador: NO SOMOS IGUALES (Egg tempera/canvas, 35.4" x 35.4", 2009)
Those Va(r)nishing Days
Taller Artifex at Blue Mountain
by Robert Sievert
Tempera is the oldest known type of painting
known. It was used in early Egypt and Greece and
remained the reigning art technique until the
development of oil painting in the Renaissance.
Not being that familiar with tempera myself, I
will give you what I know. One works on a panel
or canvas with pigment that is mixed with egg
yolk. The process has always seemed difficult to
me as one has to amass dry pigments and mix them
on demand. Also one can only mix small batches at
a time and this medium is fast drying.
But I have seen some remarkable work in tempera.
New York artist Tomar Levine painted an
unforgettable still life using tempera. To this
day, years later, I remember the clarity and
brilliance of the painting, especially notable, a
robin's egg placed on a saucer. What is most
memorable is the radiant blue of the bird's egg.
Tempera can have some dazzling effects
So when a show of beautiful paintings with a
spirited glow and done in tempera arrives it seems
like a special event.
THOSE VA(R)NISHING DAYS was the
title of an exhibition of a group of artists from
Mexico City who all work in tempera. (The play on
vanishing/varnishing is elaborated in their
catalog). The group
seem to be a studio, Taller Artifex, who produced a
beautiful exhibition seen this summer at the BLUE
MOUNTAIN GALLERY. This is a most compelling group
of artists. They work in a variety of styles but
there was a remarkable consistency to the work.
There was a wonderful warmth to all the work in
this show. Was this the quality of tempera that we
are unused to seeing, or was this just a special
group of artist? Whether it was one or the other
or perhaps both, the show had a special radiance
Alicia Amador: MI PROPIA VERDAD, Egg tempera/canvas, 35.4" x 35.4", 2009
Alicia Amador (see above, and first page)
has a beautiful loose style of
working in which figures seem to amass themselves
in an atmosphere created with color and deep
tonalities. Without linear definition, there is a
floating formlessness to this work. It is brought
into focus with overlaying colors, rich and
intense. Figures intertwined with darkness. I
have no idea what makes this painting so smashing
but it was the highlight of the show for me.
Oscar Ojeda: De Monstruos y Prodigios (Egg tempera/oil/pan de oro/linen)
Oscar Ojeda paints loose brushy surfaces over
which he inscribes words and simple cartoon
drawings. There was a more direct hipness to this
work. He seems to reference Basquiat and the
artists of the graffiti movement. The inclusion of
text and simple drawings gave the work immediacy.
Alejandra Barrera: BUSCÁNDOTE (Egg tempera/canvas, Díptico 39" x 23", 2009)
Alejandra Barrera's figures are more formed and
have a heroic stature to them. Her work is
especially strong compositionally. Her figures
fill the space and create a dramatic situation
much like the great Romantic painters.
Rebeca Martínez: Incógnitos (Egg tempera/paper, 39" x 27.5", 2009)
One has to admire the paintings of Rebeca
Martinez, her images of masked figures are
powerful and mysterious. Her characters seem to be
at some carnival-like masked ball. They peer out
with empty eye sockets and ghostly beauty.
Martinez works in careful detail and creates forms
in a painterly manner, her rendition of drapery
and knots of hair are carefully modeled and on the
All of the artists in the group seem to be
talented and dedicated.
Taller Artifex is to be congratulated on
presenting an exhibit that was consistent, elegant
and illuminating. They have given tempera painting
a new face in the contemporary art scene.
Catalog of the Exhibition (PDF)