Camilo Restrepo


Ezrha Jean Black, Artillery, May 8, 2014

Camilo Restrepo’s current show at Steve Turner Contemporary – El sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos is another complicated pleasure. (Gee, ‘tell me about it,’ I think, as I look at the title again.) I fell in love with Camilo Restrepo’s work when I saw his first show at the gallery (This is a wound, not just the drawing of a hole). Restrepo, who’s originally from Medellín, once the cocaine capital of Colombia, clearly puts some deliberation in the title, his statement of the thematic material of his drawings and paintings – it’s a part of the work, the flag he flies. You feel the pain with the pleasure. The work is scabrously, scarrifyingly political; fully encompassing the cultural political domain – the culture of objectification; of pacification and paranoia; social complacency and consumer distraction.

On one level, it’s an art of caricature; except that he’s not necessarily caricaturing a specific individual or situation. His ‘solo’ caricatures, rendered in flat, wax pastels – pink or (Caucasian) flesh-colored, with lipsticked mouths and sharply etched features – can be sewn up into larger, diagrammatic and quasi-narrative ‘landscapes’ (in this particular show, they’re titled A Land Reform); but they’re more of a MAD Magazine cartographic species. The comically flattened, distorted figures, with attenuated limbs, extensions and accessories are wrapped up and over-gadgeted in vasculature, circuitry, intubations. (Points of comparison abound – from Grosz, El Lissitzsky, Miro, Guston, Dunham to political cartoonists and children’s book illustrators – but Restrepo’s style is uniquely his own.) He gets (and demonstrates) how interconnected the social, political, cultural and psychological aspects of any society are. The ties that connect are the ties that bind, cut, and strangle; and finally eat us alive. There’s cruelty and hilarity from any perspective and especially head-on.

The press release identified some of these figures as caricatured loosely on some of the Colombian narco-traffickers of Restrepo’s hometown, but it’s fairly clear both from the iconographic details and the titles that they have a much broader cultural sweep (e.g., a ‘beisbolista’-luchador in pink stripes proclaiming himself tu padre cabron (asshole? Well why not?), bearing insignia from at least three U.S. baseball teams, including the New York Yanquis, the Detroit Tigers, and the Cleveland Indians, carrying what could be the world or a bomb on his shoulder and what looks like a balloon of embryonic creatures on his hooked prosthesis. Restrepo takes a fairly broad world view, but he’s not about to ignore the the vitiating influences of U.S. commercial culture or its facilitation of international murder and mayhem. I don’t mean to go on like this, but you get the drift. Just go have a look and ask to see whatever else might be on hand from his first show.

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