A Celebration of Life, The Folk Art of Mexico. National Geographic Society's Explorers Hall, 17th and M Streets NW. Oct. 5 through February, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

Paintings of Rufino Tamayo. The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. Oct. 7 through Nov. 19, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 7 p.m.

Tasting southern culture is not a new experience in Washington these days, but an opportunity to taste our southern neighbor's culture should be a special educational experience. That's what the nationwide symposium called "Mexico Today" is hoping to accomplish, and many Washington galleries and institutions are gearing up to focus on important aspects of Mexican life, including Mexico's significant artistic contributions.

The National Geographic will reveal one side of Mexico's artistic richness in an exhibit of some of the primitive Christmas folk art that has been handcrafted for centuries by Mexican Indians from materials like bamboo, clay, terra cotta and palm fronds.

The Phillips Collection, on the other hand, will focus on the more contemporary side of Mexican artistic achievement with an exhibit of 65 paintings by Rufino Tamayo, one of Mexico's best known artists, who has synthesized in his work cubist anrovides an opportunity to separate the assumptions you have about yourse