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Fernando Botero: Abu Ghraib

Other Reviews:

Erica Jong, Botero Sees the World's True Heavies at Abu Ghraib (Washington Post, November 4)
There have been some discussions on several art blogs centering around artistic reactions to 9/11. Some very good examples were posted, but it’s such a raw over-whelming subject, it may take several years, although it has definitely affected us all to the core. The devastation continued with our venture into Iraq, and it too is an open and very complex wound, full of violence, anger, despair, and hopelessness. Besides documenting the day to day, how can an artist formulate a broad statement? There are so many blunders and horrors: where to begin?

In ART of CONFRONTation, currently showing at the Katzen Arts Center at American University, artist Fernando Botero takes on the one subject that may just well be remembered most about our venture into Iraq - torture and, most prominently, how it was practiced at Abu Ghraib.

Many are familiar with Botero’s work, the oversized, exaggerated figures often composed in quaint domestic themes. This exhibit will blow that all away with in-your-face images of horrendous and grossly humiliating tactics used by interrogators/sadistic buffoons, at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Water boarding, a form of torture that unfortunately some in government still need to debate the merits of, was merely one form used at the prison on both men and women. Botero, outraged by published reports of the abuse by journalist Seymour Hersh (in The New Yorker and soon after spread around the world), documents it all in stunning detail through a series of more than 75 paintings and drawings, completed in just one year. The artist has called it the most productive time of his career.

This is the first complete showing in the U.S. of the Abu Ghraib series. It's a very difficult subject and the imagery graphic, but very important to see. Sadly, in this country, the initial reaction to the sadistic behavior at Abu Ghraib was mostly dismissive, as it was when Botero first tried to display this work. This exhibit offers an artistic glimpse into how many in the world view the United States as a result.

ART of CONFRONTation runs through December 30 at the Katzen Arts Center.

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