Fernando Botero opens Abu Ghraib-El Circo Exhibition at Casa das Artes de Vigo
Casa das Artes de Vigo presents an exhibition of works by the world-renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero. These works are strongly personal statements of his reaction and feelings stemming from his reading of news media accounts of the events taking place at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003. The show consists of approximately ninety-five works and includes both paintings and drawings. The subject of the works deals with the abuses, both physical and moral, that were inflicted on the Iraqi prisoners.
In depicting these offensive and violent scenes from the chapters of war’s atrocities and man’s inhumanity to man Botero follows a long line of artists, such as Goya, Grosz, Manet, Dix, Beckmann and Picasso, whose reactions to war have been documented in various media and artistic forms. What makes these paintings and drawings all the more moving is the insistent sadness and force that are implicit in these scenes of Abu Ghraib from an artist whose work usually connotes joy, sensual form, and often humor. In fact, Botero has made paintings throughout his career that address issues such as political oppression, social injustice, and suffering. In 1994 Botero treated the civil strife in Colombia in a series of works that depict the bloodshed and pain experienced during that country’s guerrilla war. Consequently, this series of work based on Abu Ghraib represents at this stage of his career his strongest statement of outrage against human violence.
This provocative and profound series was first exhibited as part of a larger exhibition at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome in 2005. It then traveled to the Würth Museum in Künzelsau, Germany and to the Pinacoteca in Athens, Greece.
Botero’s style is distinctly his own and highly original. His art, both in painting and sculpture, strikes a universal chord that goes beyond regional tastes and temporal values and reaches a fundamental feeling in people all over the world. There is perhaps no other living artist who has so many admirers and collectors. His work is recognized and sought after as much in the United States, South America and Europe as it is in South Africa, Asia and Australia. Asia Pacific Sculpture News attributed this phenomenon to “a vision of humanity that transcends the boundaries of cultural specificity, a vision of humanity that pulsates to the ancient universal rhythms of life.”
Botero was born in Medellín, Colombia in 1932. He moved to Bogotá in 1951 and had his first show there the same year at Galeria Leo Matiz. His first retrospective took place in 1970 in Germany at museums in Baden Baden, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. Since then, Botero has continually showed in museums all over the world. In the last ten years he has had an astounding number of museum shows in the following countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States.
Botero rather ingenuously suggested that, just as few would remember Guernica were it not for Picasso’s painting, Abu Ghraib might be forgotten if he did not make this series. But Abu Ghraib was a world event, rather than an incidental horror of war like Guernica. Yet unlike Picasso’s painting, a Cubist work that can serve a purely decorative function if one is unaware of its meaning, Botero’s Abu Ghraib series immerses us in the experience of suffering. The pain of others has seldom felt so close, or so shaming to its perpetrators.