Thursday, September 28, 2006

Soft Torture

Jason Edward Kaufman reports in the Art Newspaper of Fernando Botero’s latest rotund body of work: a series of paintings and drawings on Abu Ghraib. Botero wants a suitable museum to show them, but is having trouble drumming up interest. Marlborough, his gallery, is going to mount an exhibition of the work in mid-October, but no other venues are planned. The works will not be for sale. It is so nice when super rich galleries have shows of art that isn’t even for sale; it’s like a service to the community or something.

TAN quotes Botero, “I felt I had to do it...“After all, I am a figurative artist and I can say it in a very direct way that most artists today cannot.” Indeed, only he has the unique eye for filtering the representational world through chubbiness.

Botero wants the whole series to go to a single museum collection. TAN goes on to say that the Würth Museum in Germany, not only displayed the work last year, but the owner Industrialist Collector Reinhold Würth, has offered to build a whole new wing. So what is the problem? I guess he wants them in an American museum? Building a whole wing at a museum for a series by Botero is depressing enough. But to have it be of Abu Ghraib? Not to minimize the horrors of what over there, but that incident may not have the historical staying power of say Guernica, or "The Executions on the Third of May." And it is the works themselves that have made those things last. Guernica would just be another bombed village without Picasso. Is Botero really that great of an artist? Political art always seems dubious, anyway. Think of all the terrible horrible no good very bad expressions made through art made since 2001. Chubby Botero Twin Towers? Now that is a Botero we would all love to see. Oh, it would be great! With a chubby Lady Liberty, and some plump ferries and squat barges!

I Have a soft spot for Botero, though. Some of his works are really cool. I mean, look at that dog drawing. And his idea of formal concerns (the chubbiness) is actually interesting. The wide areas of flatness punctuated by tight little details are beautiful and move your eyes through the work. They cause you to think simply about aesthetics. But Botero also slips into kitchiness too often. But then again so do a lot of the “in crowd” artists. This is especially in the arena of public art. Botero’s public art is pretty horrid. But so are Oldenburg & van Bruggen and Christo & Jean Claude. At any rate, Botero doesn’t have the street cred or the popularity here in the States to get a serious museum behind this work. That coupled with a certain wariness to entertain such blatant depictions. Han Haacke taking on the war? OK. Botero? Ehhh. That just seems to be the current climate, folks.

You can see several of images here: Tunezine and they ARE worth looking into.

Here’s a little bit of trivia, Botero’s career started when MoMA bought his painting of the little girl from Velazquez’s Las Meninas, many years ago. The painting is a far cry from his work’s look of today, but you can see hints of things to come. And he has come back to that subject since. Botero is closer to the “in” art world than someone like Odd Nerdrum, but still. I wonder how MoMA feels about the painting. Have the deaccessioned it? What other skeletons do they have buried deep in the vaults?

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