THIS MONTH, COLOMBIAN artist Fernando Botero turns 90. Houston’s Art of the World Gallery is marking that milestone with Celebrating 90 Years of Botero, a museum-worthy exhibit of Botero’s paintings, sculptures and works-on-paper. The show includes pieces from the earliest decades of his career, a series of never-before-seen paintings created during the Covid-19 pandemic, and his monumental four-panel polyptych La Calle (The Street), described as “the largest oil painting ever created by the Master of Volume.” The exhibit continues through May 31.
To call Botero a “master of volume” is a bit of an understatement. The men, women, children, animals and even flora and food in his vibrant and colorful paintings are unapologetically plump, the women more curvaceous than the curviest Ruben, and the men more than totally at ease in their heaviness. Regarding the bigness of bodies in his paintings, Botero says he is interested in “volume,” and “the sensuality of form.” These bigger-than-life women and men, be they in formal wear, bathing suits or completely naked, exude both confidence and pride in their aliveness, and seem even more aligned to popular culture’s growing acceptance of all body types and awareness of unrealistic beauty standards. That said, while Botero’s style, both as a painter and sculptor, is immediately identifiable, the subject matter is never redundant, and ranges widely from social and political criticism to the often hierarchal nature of families and friendships.
In a city with a population that is nearly half Latino, and home to a lively community of creative artists and performers from across Latin America, Celebrating 90 Years of Botero is stands up alongside other recent Houston exhibits and festivals celebrating the range and diversity of Latinx art. And while some American art critics might turn their noses up at an artist who has achieved such a level of popularity and monetary success, Houston art lovers and collectors shouldn’t miss this major exhibit of one of the most beloved and distinctive Latin American artists of our time.
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