These works, which come from the artist’s own collection and are not for sale, 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 forty-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.
Marlborough’s exhibition in October will be the first time the Abu Ghraib works are to be seen in the Unites States.
Prestel will publish a book with a text by the Associate Managing Editor of Art in America, David Ebony, devoted solely to this series of work.
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.
However, the big museums in the United States do not dare to show Botero’s Abu Ghraib work.
From the Google cache of Dear Kitty ModBlog.
From the Manila Times (as far as I know the only news medium to record this important event. As for the others: censorship or self-censorship?):
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Colombian artist Botero’s Abu Ghraib prison-abuse paintings go on display
The series of oils and sketches include graphic depictions of hooded or blindfolded Iraqi detainees wearing women’s underwear and being beaten by US prison guards.
The works had not been previously shown in public, the show’s organizers said.
The rounded, chubby-looking figures are familiar from Botero works on Colombian life, including images of the 40-year-old conflict in the South American country.
Other pictures show naked or semi-naked Iraqi prisoners lying in groups, and one prisoner dangling by his ankle from the roof of a cell.
Abu Ghraib was at the center of an international uproar last year when pictures showing American soldiers piling naked inmates on top of each other and humiliating them sexually became public.
The scandal tarnished the US military’s image worldwide.
Botero has said his intention is to emblazon the images from Abu Ghraib upon the consciousness of the world.
“I, like everyone else, was shocked by the barbarity, especially because the United States is supposed to be this model of compassion,” the artist told The Associated Press in April.
The Abu Ghraib pictures are part of a larger exhibition of 170 of Botero’s works entitled, “Fernando Botero. The last 15 years.” The exhibit, held at Palazzo Venezia in downtown Rome, runs through September 25.
- Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Ordered to Pay Legal Fees (opposingviews.com)
- CACI’s Forgotten Role in Abu Ghraib (II) (huffingtonpost.com)