I had half an hour today and wandered over to the Katzen between meetings at American University. Between the Feminist work on the ground level and Botero upstairs I was blown away. I cannot recall who was on the second floor - Metropolis in paint - but even that was astounding.
Last month there were nothing but lemons hanging in the Katzen. I've actually blocked those shows out of memory - they were so bad. And, in looking at the work on exhibit now, I can see why: the energy of the past year has been invested in this month, these shows, this opening. And, it might be the best grouping of exhibits, in one space, in all of DC, at this time.
Botero may be one of my least favorite artists. It is possibly because his stylized paintings of rotund figures never "speak" to me. I find them as empty and hollow as Jeff Koon's bunny rabbits. His images of Abu Ghraib, however, truly capture that Joseph Conrad-ian psychological fracturing of humanity. What does it take to bring one human being to such moral depths that he or she performs those acts to another human being? It is more than just a fissure in the system.
But, it does make me think, under the proper conditions, there might be some sort of evil inside each of us that could take us to those depths. That might be the most frightening thing about Botero's paintings. When humanity and self-respect are lost, we become animals - rabid as dogs on the end of a tightened leash. Abu Ghraib is what happens when that leash goes untethered.