I think that Tamayo (Reynerio Tamayo) has accustomed us to this confusion, that he is today a humorist, tomorrow a storyteller, and the next day a poster designer. Or he comes before us with deceitful ceramics, facsimiles of archeological findings. To top everything, all his work appears with a suspicious apocryphal taste, a pulling-the-leg slanting that finally sat him at the best seats among present-day humorists. Fortunately, each time he has made an irruption in any of these territories of creation, the result has been so uniquely good, that we have internally (and externally) applauded the appearance of a new and magnificent humorist, poster painter, ceramist or storyteller.
But anyway, headaches do not end with him. Let’s go to this last definition: storyteller. We could ask ourselves, is Tamayo really a storyteller? As many characteristics get him closer, as get him farther from that word. Let’s see. Reyneiro is an excellent painter; his works are finely elaborated, which has worth a just comparison of him with Middle Ages’ miniaturists or illuminators. His exquisite line, his way of handling colors, the unique choosing of backgrounds that sometimes assume and important conceptual role, make Tamayo become a magnificent candidate for an odd bug of our graphic media. On the other hand, he has made ostensible his real vocation for the narrative. Give me a piece of paper and I will tell you about the world. Be it on cardboard, celluloid or ceramic, Tamayo always has to do with some story, generally, his own.
These two tendencies (to draw and to tell) make him the person most similar to a storyteller. Leaning in his accustomed profusion of details, this artist is capable of telling us in only one vignette any meticulous anecdote, the juicy fragment of a narration with a beginning and an ending we can always imagine, thanks to the prodigious suggestive power that he activates. This phenomenon is seen multiplied when he makes use of a sequence of pictures, each one charged with a particular world, where each element has its weight, from the characters to the backgrounds, chosen not at all randomly. As an example we have Octiembre, 1992, where Reyneiro manipulates a gathering of national and universal plastic-art works, giving them a narrative and dramatic power of their own, recreating the depicted character’s psychic states, as well as social and ethnic dashes. With the same token he has situated symbols of culture and art for simulating the most diverse human conflicts, from violence to the threat of AIDS.
The spreading out of all these skills should suffice us to conclude that, indeed, Tamayo is a storyteller with his entire beard –although his beardless face makes you think anything else. He is a real storyteller, a graphical-narration artist. But there are still some unknowns to be cleared up. First, Tamayo is not an editorial-minded storyteller. His works (at least up to now) have to be found in galleries or museums, not in magazines or comic strip books, and their workmanship entirely correspond with the destiny of expositions. And no need to talk about the outstanding distinction his works exhibit comparing them with his colleagues’ of the same genre, usually victims of a careless elaboration and an imaginative shortness even more shameful. Also the thematic spectrum used by Tamayo has little coincidence with local comic-strip traditions, which if they show excellent examples of creativity, threaten to turn into historic topics and quit being an authentic inspiration for their successors. It is just for this that in Tamayo’s chosen themes they seem to take a route so disconcerting. His worries make him look at men placed above all things, as the very center of all planet conflicts. And if this does not sound so solemn in Tamayo, is because we are primarily dealing with a humorist, a poet that prefers real smiles to doubtful tears, that tells us the story of earless Van Gogh, or the man dragging the bundle of his crime with a face that does not admit any resemblance to a worried face, but that neither permit us to laugh openly about those that are, finally, our own tragedies.
And it is here when we begin to distrust the humorist, the comic painter, and suspect that we are dealing with an artist. A searcher of reality that makes use of anything that comes to hand to place truth before our eyes. And that is the biggest virtue of storyteller Tamayo: the careful cultivation of a seed suddenly turned into an unexpected mine of pleasure.