Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fernando Botero: Super Size Me!

I was talking to my friend Will just before my trip to Medellin and he was giving me advice on what I needed to do while there. See, he's been there a few times for work and was pretty familiar with the city. Other than the food, which he said was really good and that I needed to eat lots of it, he told me that I MUST visit the Botero Museum. At the time, I honestly had no idea what or who Botero was but I filed it away as a must-do.

About a week later, by chance, I found myself in a plaza in downtown Medellin where there are a bunch of sculptures of odd-shaped people and animals like this one:

Turns out that this was the Plaza Botero, which is just in front of the Botero Museum of Medellin. Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist who was born in Medellin and does (mostly) painting and sculpture. His subjects, whether human, animal, or still life, appear to be incredibly overweight but are, what he says, "exaggerated [human] forms".

Regardless of how you describe them, they are definitely different and interesting. In my opinion, they're a cross between adult forms, child-like forms, and small-person forms that have their features exaggerated to the point of parody, or super-sized! In other words, like a super-sized meal, they kinda' make you laugh when you see how ridiculous they are.

From what I could tell, he likes creating works based on the themes of bull fighting and politics. He has a whole bunch of paintings of bull fighters both in and out of the ring, which might be reminiscent of the two years he spent in matador school (!!!) as a teenager. Botero's political side includes a series of works called Abu Ghraib, where he criticizes the American treatment of prisoners during the Iraq war. He also has some works that portray Colombian social and political issues such as this one called "Pablo Escobar's Death", which recounts the famous drug lord's death on the roof of a house:

One other feature that's common in Botero's paintings are what I originally thought looked like Homer Simpson's googly eyes. Most of his subjects have eyes that go in two different directions like Homer Simpson does. It wasn't until later, back in Chiquinquira with the cows again, that I realized that they're actually cow eyes. Looking straight-on at both eyes of one cow, I saw Botero's "eyes"...

In the nearby San Antonio Plaza, Botero has several more sculptures displayed. On June 10, 1995, a drug cartel placed a bomb beneath a large bird sculpture and the subsequent explosion killed more than 30 people who were attending an outdoor concert. It is believed that it was an attempt to send a message that the leaders of the cartels didn't want to be extradited to the U.S. during the peak of the war on drugs with Colombia. In 2000, a duplicate sculpture was placed next to the damaged sculpture as a homage against the "stupidity" of the violence.

I very much enjoyed my visit to Medellin. All the Botero art was a bonus. A few days after I had gotten back to Bogotá I (once again) happened to come across another Botero Museum. This one was also excellent and houses mostly Botero paintings. I think I liked his interpretation of the Mona Lisa best because I think it makes me look not-so-super-sized...

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