Botero's 1999 canvas, his imagined reproduction Death of Pablo Escobar transforms the personal body into the political through the creation of a over-sized world inhabited by conflicting, oversized and vulnerable bodies.
Botero shows the controversial drug lord, seen as a Robin Hood figure by many, to be akin to an overgrown child, less a political scene and more like a dark, repressed memory. Many of the local poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, mourned Escobar as a hero, and it is this conflicting personality that Botero depicts in his figurative reproduction. Botero has often painted Colombia's ongoing violent history, including his interpretations of the police brutality in the 1960s, gang violence in the 1990s and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in the early 2000s, all emanating from an imagination that is preoccupied by the production and circulation of fear.
When discussing the ways in which the political permeates the consumption of Botero's work, the most striking example is his Death of Pablo Escobar. Depicting the polarizing figure as a terrorised and substantial figure, Botero is referencing the tangibility of the imagination to transform a man's death into a national gesture. The artist once remarked that “art is a permanent accusation”.and in Death of Pablo Escobar the political becomes the private sphere of reflection. Always inherently referencing pre-Colombian art, Botero's canvas is also reminiscent of Diego Rivera's murals of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. What Botero depicts is arguably a similar was event that forced the Colombian people into exploring the shared effects still felt from the era of colonialism and the lived reality of continued civil unrest that has shaped the artist's take on the creation and circulation of emerging styles of aesthetic practice.
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