Monday, January 29, 2007

botero's abu ghraib paintings in berkeley

today i was lucky to hear fernando botero in conversation at berkeley. botero recently produced many paintings depicting the indignities and torture perpetrated by american soldiers in abu ghraib.

many galleries in america refused to show the paintings, which is a shame, because they depict horrible scenes that should be the launching point for discussion. botero stated that one reason he painted these scenes, as opposed to depictions of terrorist attacks, is because it was especially shocking for him to learn that america, the beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights, had perpetrated such an awful thing. he feels that the incident is the most awful black mark against america's reputation in recent history.

the image of the painting above is representative of the exhibit. the prisoners are prominent, and their loss of dignity is obvious. the torturers are usually represented by a gloved hand. the small window in the corner is a contrast to the claustrophobic atmosphere -- a hint of hope.

you can find more images here.

the nation has an article on the paintings. i think this quote nicely sums up the exhibit:
When the photographs were released, the moral indignation of the West was focused on the grinning soldiers, for whom this appalling spectacle was a form of entertainment. But the photographs did not bring us closer to the agonies of the victims.

Botero's images, by contrast, establish a visceral sense of identification with the victims, whose suffering we are compelled to internalize and make vicariously our own. As Botero once remarked: "A painter can do things a photographer can't do, because a painter can make the invisible visible."
the exhibit is at berkeley's doe library. here's the info

Exhibition Hours and Location
Room 190, Doe Library
January 29 – March 23, 2007
Monday – Thursday: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Friday – Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed on Sundays

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