The Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP) celebrated the centennial of Rafael Tufiño (1922-2022) at Central Hall of the Old Arsenal of the Spanish Navy in Old San Juan through an exquisitely curated show from their collection.
We are excited to bring this exhibition, “Celebrating 100 Years of Rafael Tufiño,” to our Museum in collaboration with ICP, the Estate of Rafael Tufiño, and the Government of Puerto Rico.
This is the first time Rafael Tufiño’s works of art travel to Chicago. This unparalleled exhibition showcases an exclusive array of 39 stunning paintings, drawings, and prints. Remarkably, only 5 of these pieces have ever been on the continental United States. These previously unseen artworks have graced prestigious venues in New York, including the Museo del Barrio and the Bronx Museum, as well as Connecticut, but have never been available for others to enjoy, like in our great city of Chicago and beyond.
Tufiño, affectionately known as “Tefo,” was a highly skilled Master artist and earned the nickname the “People’s Painter” (El Pintor del Pueblo). Through this collaborative exhibition, we aim to highlight various aspects of Tufiño’s life, including his role as a teacher, his artistic style, his experiences in San Juan, his interactions with fellow artists, and his family life. The exhibition will feature paintings, engravings, drawings, and sketches on loan from the collection of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Tufiño’s crowning achievement lay in his devotion to highlighting Puerto Rico’s cultural heritage, particularly its African roots. Through his art, he endeavored to shed light on the marginalized stories and contributions of Afro-Puerto Ricans, infusing his works with an undeniable sense of historical and social significance. This commitment earned him the moniker of the “Painter of the People,” as his art truly became a conduit for voicing the experiences and aspirations of everyday individuals.
Rafael Tufiño was a multifaceted creative, excelling as a printmaker, painter, illustrator, muralist, and draftsman. Born to Puerto Rican parents, Tufiño arrived on the island as a child and began his artistic journey under the guidance of Alejandro Sánchez Felipe and Juan Rosado at the age of 17. He further honed his skills in printmaking and mural techniques at the San Carlos Academy in Mexico. Tufiño co-founded the Center for Puerto Rican Art in 1950 and created the monumental work “La Plena” (1952-1954), which enjoyed a long exhibition period at the Fine Arts Center in Santurce and now graces the walls of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Between 1952 and 1967, he contributed to the Printmaking Workshop of the Community Education Division and later established the Puerto Rican Workshop (“Taller Boricua”) in New York (1970-1974). Tufiño received numerous accolades, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (1954), through which he produced the portfolio titled “El Café” – the first solo artist creation of its kind in Puerto Rico. He also received the National Culture Award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1987), and in 2013, New York City named 103rd Street in Harlem “Rafael Tufiño Way.” A tireless creator, Tufiño epitomized the best of Puerto Rican printmaking tradition. While he predominantly favored figurative styles, he also explored abstraction, always emphasizing design and achieving harmony among the visual elements in his work.
Tufiño’s extensive artistic career spanning seven decades encompasses a diverse range of themes tied to Puerto Rican national identity, social criticism, and the essence of the Caribbean. His extensive body of work, rooted in his ability to narrate the essence of everyday life with a strong social and political conscience, offers a realistic glimpse into the past. This perspective will undoubtedly echo through the ages, leaving a lasting impact for generations to come.