Department of WTF

An exhibit of Botero’s paintings, inspired by the torture of Iraqi prisoner by U.S. troops at the Abu-Ghraib prison, opened in Rome last month. Another show of the artist’s works opened in Barranquilla, this time displaying pieces inspired by car bombings and kidnappings in Colombia. The L.A. Times has a review of the shows, and of what drew Botero to the events.

These aren’t the sorts of scenes most people associate with Fernando Botero. For decades, the 73-year-old Colombian painter and sculptor has been best known for his seemingly innocuous images of plump priests, chunky children and still lifes of gargantuan fruits and flowers.

But this perception of Botero’s work was always overly simplistic and incomplete. Encoded, or perhaps hidden in plain sight, in many of his paintings are multilayered cultural symbols, covert allusions to current events and winking art-historical references to works by Velazquez, Vermeer and other Old Masters. Some of his most enigmatic images birds perched in lollipop trees, faces anxiously peering out of windows, a pile of dead bishops resting peacefully hint at darker forces roiling beneath the colorful, pleasing surfaces.

Read more here.

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