City Paper is not for tourists
Like much political art, the paintings in “Fernando Botero: Abu Ghraib” are difficult to look at for an extended period of time. In Botero’s mind, however, Americans have turned a blind eye to the distorted limbs, anguished faces, and gaping wounds depicted in his works for far too long. The Paris-based artist’s exhibition at American University’s Katzen Arts Center marks the first time the two-year-old series has been shown in a museum in the United States. Fitting, then, that it comes to D.C. as Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s opinion on waterboarding—an interrogation technique portrayed in one of Botero’s paintings—was recently in the headlines. Botero has said that he did not base his paintings on photographs of the torture but rather on descriptions he read in the New Yorker. The painter’s figural style has always been Rubenesque, but the bulk he gives to his prisoners does not contribute to their strength. Botero makes it difficult not to be sympathetic: Many of his bearded figures, arms outstretched, are almost Christlike. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, to Sunday, Dec. 30, at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. (202) 885-1300.