With the death of Fernando Botero, which occurred a couple of months ago, it could be said that, incidentally, a way of seeing the art that he defended tooth and nail ended: validity based on a style. For him, the great artists of history were always recognized precisely for that style, which in his work came to be the exaggeration of volume in his characters, in objects, in landscapes; in everything he painted and in his sculptures. Their fat -although he hated that simplification- they consolidated his style.
However – and that was his eternal discussion with the artists of generations that followed him – art took other directions where the style that he proclaimed and that he proposed that each artist seek, was no longer a relevant discussion. In the world… and here, of course.
In the sixties and seventies, the public and critics in Colombia were confronted with works where calligraphy replaced the image. Bernardo Salcedo (1939-2007) made still lifes where there were no fruits or vegetables, but rather their names written within the work. Antonio Caro (1950-2021) wrote the word “Colombia” with the same Coca-Cola font to refer to our identity, to the fact that we identify more with North American culture than with our own. Feliza Bursztyn (1933-1982) made sculptures that moved, that produced sounds. Álvaro Barrios (1945) distributed prints inside newspapers.
In the eighties, in addition to artists who addressed the increasingly visible problem of drug trafficking, José Alejandro Restrepo (1959) turned to video, no longer canvases or paper. María Teresa Hincapié (1956-2008) used her own body to make art not only in artistic spaces, but also in showcases in the center of Bogotá. Rosemberg Sandoval (1959) was in charge of carefully cleaning a street dweller inside a museum.
From the end of that decade and the beginning of the nineties, Doris Salcedo (1958) made sculptures with doors, chairs or shoes of missing people, of families displaced by violence. María Fernanda Cardoso (1963) presented a flea circus, literally, and works that alluded to the heads of men who, after being murdered, served as soccer balls for their executioners in the maximum degradation of barbarism. Specific acts of violence, such as the storming of the Palace of Justice, have given rise to works of art that seek to generate memory.
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Without a doubt, artists continue to question their context. The artist Camilo Correa, 32 years old, grew up in the Popular 1 neighborhood of Medellín, and, in the midst of the criminal gangs that moved through the area, he discovered that the Thompson rifle was the weapon most used by those who wanted to impose their law. . The young people who carried them delimited the territory: “You can go up to here; I don’t respond from here.” Forbidden streets, public spaces permeated by fear and the absence of the State led Correa to create a work of art, a wall built from those weapons, but here made of concrete and pigmented with red iron oxide. A wall that allows a glimpse of those standing on either side but that obviously prevents passage. A metaphor for its context, but also for that of so many places in the world that know the fragility of those limits where violence prevails.
Just as Correa has sought to recreate his surroundings in several of his works, dozens of artists who have applied to the Feria del Millón in these 11 years have proposed the same thing from different perspectives. Daniela Acosta made a series of drawings of the clinic room where she was hospitalized for depression for weeks, reliving every element of the place, her company when she had to face herself. Steefany González and Gustavo Carrillo, during the pandemic, literally painted the facade of their house red, in the Los Olivos neighborhood of Barranquilla, alluding to the rags that appeared in the windows of those who needed help. Only here, that gesture of a completely red house, including furniture, glasses, pots, was more of a cry for abandonment by the State.
Harrison Tobón (40 years old) has carefully drawn the facades of the neighborhood where he grew up, in Puente Aranda, Bogotá; but Edward Rico (32 years old) also set out to make architectural works with salt, unfinished buildings, white elephants, like the color of that salt related to bad luck.
Pablo Adarme (47 years old) recreated facades of popular neighborhoods as creamy cakes found in the neighborhood’s own bakeries; while Paula Abril (26 years old) dedicated herself to painting her memories, those places and objects that take her to her past. Cities and landscapes have been very present in recent years.
Around 1,000 artists apply to the Million Fair each year, and a selection committee chooses an average of 80. In these 11 years, photography has occupied a determining place, due to the use of mobile phones and social networks. These images have sought to recreate disused places, highlight architectural details, everyday scenes in public spaces. Instagram has unintentionally become a kind of—sometimes—potentially artistic photography laboratory.
But we have also seen a rise in drawing, artists who talk about personal relationships, the influence – good and bad – of technology and also mental health. Artists continue to question the world they live in, working conditions, climate change and inequalities. And the most gratifying thing is that art ―almost always― maintains its poetic power. Just as in the nineties, Oscar Muñoz (1951) made his Portrait, where she literally made a self-portrait with a brush and water on a hot floor due to the sun and which evaporated permanently to never remain fixed, Daniela Briceño (27 years old) made for Voltaje, the art and technology room that is exhibited at the fair , a fabric with her grandmother’s gray hair. The air made that white image float in the air, in a totally dark space, alluding to the passage of time, to the life that refuses to end.
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