Friday, January 30, 2009
Botero turns up the volume at the Naples Museum of Art
By charles runnells
Before Fernando Botero, the world-renowned artist, there was just Fernando Botero, the poor Colombian teen who loved to draw.
Then, one day in 1956, Botero tried something different while sketching a mandolin - something that proved career-changing.
On a whim, the budding artist shrank the mandolin's sound hole to a pinpoint.
The result was almost magical, recalls Botero, whose traveling art exhibit comes to Naples this weekend.
The instrument suddenly transformed before his eyes. It took on all-new proportions and became swollen and plump, sensuous and ripe.
Botero didn't know it yet, but he'd just stumbled upon his signature style.
He'd soon take that "fat" look and apply it to stout human and animal figures with wide necks, thick ankles and bountiful waist lines. And just like that mandolin's sound hole, he shrank the figures' features into tiny eyes, tiny mouths, tiny breasts - making everything else look all the bigger.
"I did this by chance, you know," Botero says in a telephone interview from his Colombian house (he also owns homes in Italy, the U.S. and elsewhere). "Then I started to reflect on what happened in the sketch. And then I developed my style."
That unique vision eventually led to his work becoming some of the most popular, instantly recognizable art in the world.
When you see a Botero still-life or portrait, you know it, says Myra Daniels, CEO of Naples' The Philharmonic Center for the Arts.
"You can stand across the room and see his work, and you know it's him," she says. "It speaks loudly and in a big voice."
A traveling exhibit of that plus-sized work opens Saturday at the Naples Museum of Art. It's the biggest U.S. retrospective of Botero art in 34 years.
"This is probably the biggest show Naples has ever had," Daniels says. "And the weightiest one, too. One of his sculptures weighs more than a ton."
Botero is one of the most sought-after artists in the world, she says. People love his whimsical images, subtle satire and utterly unique style.
He's also one of the most misunderstood artists. Botero says many people know him simply as "the artist who paints fat women," but there's more to his world than grotesquely oversized - OK, "fat" - women. There are fat men, fat children, fat cats, fat landscapes, fat fruit, fat furniture. In fact, everything in Botero's world is huge and straining at the edges, voluptuous and larger than life.
These aren't mere figure studies, though. Botero uses those fleshy figures to examine everything from tender lovers to pompous leaders, shocking world events to misery in Latin America. And it's all with an eye toward humor or social awareness.
Botero says he's simply distorting the human body to create a unique view of the world. He applies the idea of "volume" in the same way Picasso applied fragmented angles and Monet applied blurred dots and brush strokes.
He doesn't have a fat fetish, he says. He's just following his muse.
"Extreme deformity has a tremendous beauty," he says. "All the great, great art is deformed.
"I'm just a painter who is obsessed, or who feels very strongly that volume and tactile values are very important in the enjoyment of art."
The Naples exhibit features 100 baroque-inspired pieces from Botero's personal collection. Many of them have never been displayed before.
They include such well-known pieces as "Adam" and "Eve," "Dancers" and the 3,000-pound bronze statue "The Smoking Woman." In the latter piece - parked outside the Naples museum's front door - a nude woman reclines absently on her stomach, a towel beneath her, a cigarette dangling from one hand.
"Perhaps it is one of the most popular pieces I have done," Botero says. There are three copies in the world, including one in Monte Carlo.
Other exhibit pieces take on war and misery in Botero's hometown of Medellin. Bullets pierce a barefooted man in the Goya-esque "The Wall (Execution)." The autobiographical "The Widow" shows Botero's mother standing wearily beneath a clothesline as her three rambunctious children play underfoot.
Another piece, "The First Lady," portrays an unnamed president's wife of an unnamed Latin American country. The plump first lady perches clumsily on her equally plump horse, the woman's expression detached and arrogant.
It's not a flattering portrait.
"Of course, there's always the satirical element in the portraits," Botero says.
The Naples exhibit doesn't include his more recent, controversial work - namely, his series of paintings on the abuse of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison. The show was put together before he started pursuing those topics, Botero explains.
"It's a pity that wasn't part of it," he says.
Botero, now 76 years old, has been following his unique (and somewhat chubby) muse for more than five decades now. The artist says he's still exploring volume and how changing the volume of an object changes its appearance.
It still fascinates him.
"Volume has been neglected in the art of the 20th Century," he says. "Most paintings are flat.
"I was always interested in volume - creating the illusion of space and volume, tactility and sensuality. I found a way to express volume, between the generosity of the outline and the smallness of the detail."
That's all fine and well, but Botero admits he may be getting too deep for many casual observers. For those people, his artwork will always be less than the sum of its plump parts.
Botero realizes he may be fighting a losing battle.
"The thing is, people still know me as 'the man who paints fat ladies,'" he says and chuckles. "What can you do?"
Naples Museum of Art
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Sunday, January 25, 2009
La XVIII Feria Taurina de La Macarena Bullfights in Medellin.
The bull throws the matador, Antonio Barrera, through the air.
Yesterday, Spaniard Antonio Barrera struggled with his bull but the two Colombianos Cristóbal Pardo y Héctor José put on a good show for the crowd.
Antonio Barrera attempts to sheild himself from the oncoming bull.
Bullfight Schedule for Medellin Feria Taurina de La Macarena
Segunda corrida. Sábado 31 de enero. Toros de Ernesto Gutiérrez para Diego González, Morante de la Puebla y Miguel Ángel Perera.
Festival Taurino. Viernes 6 de febrero, Ejemplares de La Carolina para El Cid, Sebastián Castella, Matías Tejela, Luís Bolívar, Rubén Pinar y Jerónimo Delgado.
Tercera corrida. Sábado 7 de febrero. Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo para Manuel Jesús El Cid, Sebastián Castella y Luís Bolívar.
Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull (tauromachy) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representations of what it seems to be a man facing a bull is on the celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting "El toro de hachos", both found in Spain. Many of the oldest bullrings in Spain are located on or adjacent to the sites of temples to Mithras
Bullfighting is often linked to Rome, where many human-versus-animal events were held. There are also theories that it was introduced into Hispania by the Emperor Claudius when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial games, as a substitute for those combats. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves. In its original form, the bull was fought from horseback using a javelin. (Picadors are the remnants of this tradition, but their role in the contest is now a relatively minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and in the 19th century to France, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.
Bullfighting generates heated controversy in many areas of the world, including Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, Portugal, and Colombia. Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition, while animal rights groups argue that it is a blood sport because of the suffering of the bull and horses during the bullfight.
Diego Ventura in Medellin, Colombia; 2006
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Medellin, Antioqia Colombia
The first time that the Spaniards saw the Valley of Aburrá was in 1541, when the officer Jerónimo Luis Tejelo arrived here by orders of the Marshal Jorge Robledo, who later founded the city of Antioquia. Given the fact that there was not gold neither silver, the Spaniards did not pay a lot of attention to the valley and they left at the request of the native Aburráes that inhabited what is today Medellín.
In 1616 the Colonial Judge and Visitor Francisco de Herrera Campuzano brought together Indians of various villages of the province of Antioquia, brought them to the valley of Aburrá and founded the town of San Lorenzo de Aburrá, in which today is the neighborhood El Poblado, which is not to be thought of as the origin of Medellín. The inhabitants of the valley conformed a dynamic colony, with dispersed inhabitants dedicated to agricultural works and cattle ranchers; the town of San Lorenzo decayed quickly while, in the remainder of the valley, its inhabitants were grouped in various places. One of them was the place of Aná, located near the current Administrative Center La Alpujarra, which Medellin's City Hall, the Governor’s Office and the Palace of Justice. In 1660 it included a church, a precarious urban plan and had a singular importance.
The neighbors of the city of Antioquia opposed to the idea that in the Valley of Aburrá a city was founded or even a village, because it would reduce its jurisdiction and its political control on the province, every day many of its neighbors were moving to the Valley of Aburrá, with better temperatures, abundance of water, and with a more dynamic communication with the Government of Popayán and routes to the Magdalena River.
Santa Fe, former capital of Antioquia
March 20, 1671 the New Village of the Valley of Aburrá of Our Lady of La Candelaria was erected, but the council members and the priest of the city of Antioquia managed to annul such erection. Nevertheless, some years later, November 2, 1675, a decree was issued that finally erectedthe Aná in the Village of Our Lady of La Candelaria of Medellín.
In 1813 Antioquia proclaimed its independence from Spain. By then, Antioquia included the cities of Santa Fe de Antioquia, Rionegro, Zaragoza, Cáceres, Remedios and the villages of Medellín and Marinilla. This last one was declared city by the dictator Juan del Corral in such year, given the commercial importance that it was acquiring because of being a forced stop on the routes toward the Magdalena River, the city of Popayán and the Atlantic coast. In spite of the opposition of the up till then capital of the province, Santa Fe de Antioquia, on April 17, 1826 Francisco de Paula Santander sanctioned the law that elevated Medellín to the category of capital of the province of Antioquia. But only toward 1870 did this tranquil town, surrounded by cattle ranches, experienced a significant economic boom as the supplier of food of the mining zones of Remedios, Zaragoza, and Cáceres and of the old capital Santa Fe and as center of marketing of coffee, result of the so-called Antioquian colonizationthat turned extensive uncultivated zones into cultivations of the coffee bean.
This economic boom gave a push to the incipient architectural and urban configuration of the capital, and to its cultural and social life, with the birth of companies dedicated to the arts and to the letters, aspect that stands out itself since, on the economic development and the cultural expressions would go hand by hand in which will be a mark inherent to the history of Medellín.
Pedro Justo Berrío (1827 – 1875), would begin to project the city as an economic and political center, beyond the environment of the local thing. By promoting infrastructure works and development, such as highways, the trolley, the banking and the railroad system. Precisely, in 1874 started one of the works that would mark great part of the recent history, not only of Medellín, but of all the region: the Railroad of Antioquia; besides, the city blossomed also as intellectual center that attracted writers and thinkers.
The paisas in Antioquia keeping traditions alive.
For all of the above mentioned, and in order to counteract its messy and unplanned growth, the Council of Medellín issued the Agreement 4 of 1890, referring to the blueprint that should be drawn for the future development of the city, that was not the first one since from late 18th century already two versions of the plan of the Village existed. In 1899 The Society of Public Improvements was created, that played a leading role in the development of the city and, further on, the Institute of Fine Arts was consolidated after being integrated with the painting atelier of Francisco Antonio Cano, author of the classical work Horizons, today reproduced in a great wall in the Plaza Cisneros.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Medellín, which at that time included some thousands of inhabitants, began to experience a radical transformation with the so-called industrialization, to which contributed the topography of mountains and abundance of water that was used for the generation of electricity, the proximity and location with relation to growing markets, the ability of the Antioquian as merchant and the sense of their leading class that, barely in 20th century, had the vision and constituted the Chamber of Commerce of Medellín.
The textile sector marked the start of industrialization in the Valley of Aburrá, but very quick they added other sectors as that of the glass, the footwear, the food of massive consumption and the iron and steel industry. Some businesses that were born just then were the National Company of Chocolates, Postobón, Coltejer, Fabricato, Colombian Company of Tobacco, National Factory of Crackers and Sweets –Noel-.
This process would be consolidated finally in the decade of 1930, with the doors opening policies for economic growth of presidents as Enrique Olaya Herrera and Alfonso López Pumarejo. Medellín took clear advantages of political alliances as to become the main industrial, economic and financial center of the country.
A picturesque view on a Sunday drive from Medellin, Colombia.
The cultural life of the city also contributed to its growth: here were born newspapers as El Espectador, considered the pioneer of the national press, and radio businesses such as CARACOL and RCN, and in the literary environment figures arose as Tomás Carrasquilla and groups as Los Panidas, with León de Greiff.
The city would continue being center of literary movements of significance as The “Nadaistas” (philosophers who focused on “nothingness”), that charmed and scandalized the country. Other cultural milestones in Medellín would mark it, such as the biennials of art, that approached the contemporary art to the common people, and further on the sculptural and pictorial work of Fernando Botero that would be recognized and admired in the entire world. Today, besides many cultural events of significance, in Medellín the International Festival of Poetry is carried out -Alternative Nobel Prize 2006-, that gathers poets and writers originating from several dozens of countries. After surpassing the crisis caused by the illegal drug trafficking in the decade of the 80s, Medellín recovered its traditional leadership. Today, after assuming the reintegration to the civil life of actors of violence, Medellín is presented before the world as model of peace and reconciliation.
A great example of this new push of the city was given by being the headquarters in March 2007 of the XIII Conference of the Association of Academies of Spanish Language of the whole world, that included the presence of the King and Queen of Spain. In this Conference the review was proposed in depth, the updating and the definition of the contemporary grammar of Spanish language, that outstands by the name of “Grammar of Medellín”.
Medellín is today identified by its noticeable fairs and events that year after year fill it with an encouraging air of vanguard; here are held the greatest fashion shows and fairs and the textile fairs Colombiatex and Colombiamoda, festivals of culture as the Book Festival, the International Festival of Poetry, International Tango Festival and the International Festival of Jazz, the Flowers Festivities and its Parade of “Silleteros” (peasants carrying heavy flower arrangements on their backs).
The Transformation of Medellin, Colombia.
The new city, the capital with unequaled climate along with its transformation, is ready to welcome you. The city’s museums, its new parks and streets, its malls, its theaters, its landmark tourist places like Cerro Nutibara, its old churches, and its visitor and convention centers are there to be enjoyed. For you to tour them, mingle with its people; infect yourself with their enthusiasm and optimism. The people in Medellin who are always eager to welcome you and offer you an unforgettable experience.
The great favorable, visible, and urban renewal to all its inhabitants and visitors, more than six local channels of television, the state-of-the-art modern Park-Libraries that approach the culture to zones of the city where before none of these opportunities existed, the great scientific development of Medellín, especially in the field of health, new universities and large opportunities of education for all its inhabitants, make of this a metropolis looking at the future with international projection.
Medellin a young city, from www.antioquiadigital.com