By: Jack Tomas
Today we’re dropping some culture on yo’ face. When people think about art, particularly painting, they usually think about the European masters. Don’t get us wrong, those dudes were awesome. But we love our own homegrown artists. Not only are they insanely talented, their paintings are more relevant to us. So, we thought we’d talk about some of our favorite Latino painters. Like all art, its greatness is subjective. This is only our opinion. Also, we’re gonna leave off the great Spanish painters like Dali, Picasso, Velazquez, El Greco, Goya and the rest of the tapas eaters. Sure, they are also part of our heritage, but they could make up their own list. So, here are the top 5 Latino painter all-stars.
Come on, you knew he’d be first. One of the greatest painters in history, chubby-boy Diego changed painting forever. He didn’t do much painting on canvas. He preferred wall murals. His socially conscious paintings often depicted the plight of the Mexican poor. This is largely due to his Communist ties (never mind that he was wealthy. He’s what’ my Cuban grandfather calls a “comunista rico.”) Still, his politically aware art did communicate a grander message of social justice. He was famously contracted by the Rockefellers to paint a mural in the lobby of 30 Rock. When he added Lenin, (the Bolshevik not the Beatle), Rockefeller had a rich dude conniption and smashed it down.
Diego’s ability to get more bumper than a pool table, despite looking like a fat owl, is a testament to his fame and artistic merit. He most famously had one of the greatest and most tempestuous love affairs with Frida Kahlo. Speaking of Frida…
She’s more than just a unibrow and a mustache. The amazing thing about Frida is that she could have easily just been “Diego’s wife”. People could have said, “Oh, how cute! Diego’s wife paints too.” But she was famous in her own right, and rightly so. Unlike her husband, Frida primarily used canvas. Frida’s art were often self-portraits depicting disturbing imagery that alluded to her tumultuous relationship with Diego and other traumatic life experiences. In a way, her works were constant screams of pain.
A few years ago, they made a Frida biopic starring Salma Hayek. With all due respect to Frida, she’s no Salma. Still, we love ya Frida. Oh and also, she once had a revenge bone on Diego with Leon Trotsky. What a burn for a commie.
Orozco: Another Mexican muralist, but somewhat different than Diego. Jose Clemente Orozco often painted scenes from Mexican history, particularly the Spanish conquest. His most famous work in the Hospico Cabañas expresses the horrors of Hernan Cortes’ conquest. Orozco’s art also showcased the interaction of humans and technology, citing his fear that machines were stealing our humanity. Some people think he was maybe greater than Rivera. This humble writer is among them. The painting above of the “Man on Fire” is incredible.
The most contemporary artist of this list, Botero tends to portray his fat characters doing mundane, everyday things like smoking or breastfeeding. He’s also known to venture into politically-themed art. Some of his work showcases his country’s problems with the drug cartels and guerillas. Most recently, he did a series of paintings about the Abu Ghraib prison torture fun. Interestingly enough, the prisoners were also pudgy. Botero is totally a chubby chaser.
Botero is considered the most Colombian of artists, whatever that means. We guess painting fat people doing random stuff is the epitome of being Colombian?
Wifredo is the Latino Picasso. He painted in Picasso’s cubist style, but his subject matter was very different. Where old Pablo mainly painted whatever chick he was currently boffing, Wifredo preferred to paint about regular Cuban life. He was greatly influenced by the imagery and iconography of his Afro-Cuban ancestors. He was part of the “Afro-Cuban” renaissance in the 20’s and 30’s. They rejected the idea that art had to look like what the Europeans had done. Lam and co. drew inspiration from their own culture. Screw Michelangelo. God in a pink dress? Blasphemy.