Seemingly out of left field comes some figurative art that is addressing the more sinister brutalities of today - Abu Ghraib by Botero. Yes, Botero. I confess, I associate Botero with art collectors who spend as much on their fumador and wine collections as their contemporary art collections. Yet here the Colombian born artist is addressing atrocities and pulling it off (I think) like Leon Golub. They have an intensity reminescient of Bacon and perhaps a little of Masaccio. I'm still digesting these and I'm sure scale (these are huge) plays a major part for these works. A visit to Marlboro may be necessary.
"When the 1960’s came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man was I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything - and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?"
- Phillip Guston, 1974. (something we should all be considering)
Botero has addressed violence in the past regarding the upheavals of Colombia so in some ways this isn't new territory for the artist but certainly for viewers less familiar with his engagements in Colombia - such as myself. It is worth noting that these works have been traveling throughout Europe but NO U.S. institution has agreed to show the paintings! That silence speaks volumes - you fill in the gaps.
My initial response (beyond historical and journalistic) was to compare this work to Jenny Holzer's last show at Cheim & Reid which focused on Gitmo. I was flinching abit as I was hoping that this was not some effort at relavancy through platform political/human rights subject matter. I detest profiteering like that in the artworld or Hollywood for that matter. I was relieved to read this:
They are going to be donated to a museum eventually, I don’t know where. I’m not new to the principle of donating. I donated 200 of my paintings to Colombia, and I donated a whole series of paintings based upon the war in Colombia to the National Museum there. But I will donate these because I don’t feel like doing business based upon somebody else’s pain. That’s not my thing.I have no proof to the otherwise, but I'm wondering if the Cheim & Reid show was strictly for profit on the shoulders of others agony. I'm not doubting the content but wonder about the back room business ethics surrounding politically senstitive works. It is a very sticky line to walk. Despite no US venue to have a discussion on America's role in torture, these Botero works will at least be part of the public record somewhere long after the journalistic images go into hiding.
Here is the complete ART INFO Interview: