Sunday, May 14, 2023

Fernando Botero at The Museum of Latin American Art

We visited family in Long Beach in Los Angeles County and wanted to see a museum where a friend from Santa Fe, Stuart Ashman, had been President and Chief Executive Officer. It is the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) . We had a nice surprise that they happened to have a Fernando Botero exhibition. It was not a very large show but with wonderful large works of art in a big gallery as well as a 2018 film which gave one great insight into the artist with his daughter as guide and the artist himself giving commentary on his view of painting.

Botero was born in 1932 in Medellin, Columbia and recently celebrated on his 91st birthday. He had no formal training but studied the masters in his native Bogota, Columbia and all over Europe, France, Italy and Spain … what better art education? Something you may not know was that he was originally trained as a Bull fighter!

He says he lives for his art and his daughter says when he walks into his studio he is young again. He refers to his overly large individuals and even in his still lives as “generous”. He loves the colors and richness of the figures and the viewer responds. He has exhibited all over the world and his works have been collected by many museums along the way. Also, much of his work can be found in the Museo Botero in Bogota which, I gather, is devoted mainly to the artists of the first half of the 20th century.

His subject matter for the most part is drawn from his own Country. However, the torture by U.S. guards of their Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib affected him greatly and he devoted 14 months to a series of paintings to these events. He donated 56 paintings and drawings from the series to the Berkeley Museum of Art, which is closely affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley.

This exhibition is not at all dark but more about family. The chief curator at MOLAA, Gabriela Urtiaga, sees the exhibition as a dialog between the artist’s sculpture, his drawings and paintings. The exhibition starts outside the museum with a monumental sculpture which I am not sure would even fit into the museum, if they wanted it to. It is a fraction more than 132x77x76 inches and a wonderful way to introduce Botero’s voluptuous work. I was once asked by an artist to help him give titles to his works for an exhibition because a gallery insisted on it. Botero does not worry about such details, this Bronze is titled “Reclining Woman”. You cannot argue with that, Botero wants his art to speak for itself.

Inside the show is this small bronze sculpture of a duo, the artist has captured the moment when the couple are waiting for the music to start and they can begin the dance.

He was quite the draughtsman as well and in these two drawings you can see what happens when the dancing couple get going!

In this large painting is a family where the parents loom large and both the son on his hobby horse and grandma in her wheelchair are very small in comparison. I keep wondering why is grandma depicted as diminutive. I will let you decide, but I do not believe it is to diminish the older woman since the grandmother is very important in Hispanic families, the “Abuela” often takes care of the kids while both parents are at work.

Even when Botero is painting a still life the canvas is large 68 ½ x 74 ½ as are the fruits, and I am dying to have a piece of that chocolate cake! Here the title is Still Life with Watermelon. Note the small size piece of watermelon on left and on the right is the entire very large watermelon! That is known as artistic license!

To be honest, I cannot say that Fernando Botero is my favorite artist, this show, however, gave an excellent introduction to his work and the film brought it all into perspective and allowed me to appreciate what he had in mind and why.

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