Skira
In shops now
In this month’s British GQ, the artist Fernando Botero states that “art should always be clear. It should speak directly.” And, indeed, his work does just that. Perhaps if you are most familiar with the Columbian artist’s paintings of rather rotund figures in the nude, in the circus, or the various sculptures scattered throughout the world, you may view his clarity through a jovial lens. In the newly published book by Skira, what we get is more of a catalogue of recent years than anything else. After an introduction by Erica Jong (in which she declares: “Desperate men start wars. Sane men and women make peace,”) we go back to the mid-90s and the Circus pieces that many know him for. Both the paintings and the sketches herein have a great sense of whimsy and colour, perhaps owing some inspiration to the work of Chagall. Then it’s onto the more recent works, with a still life here and there, images of wives and mothers in their daily ritual. Football, dancing, eating, nudity (of course). And then, after 134 pages of lush, if sometimes tender works, we plummet into the depths of Abu Ghraib. To say these images are disturbing is certainly true, however, they may be even more affecting than the photographs and videos we have burned into our minds. Once a horror like this is elevated to the fine arts, it becomes infinitely more haunting and grotesque in its permanence. To cleanse our palette there are a few pages of sculpture works (nice kitty) and that’s that. Because Botero’s periods of work are so very different, it is hard to treat this as a proper record of an artist that continues to create constantly. The work is remarkable, but this catalogue of a few collections is not the omnibus one might imagine.