While preparing the exhibition I Am Still Alive: Politics and Everyday Life in Contemporary Drawing, Christian Rattemeyer and I had a conversation with our colleagues Luis Pérez-Oramas and Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães about the premise of the exhibition. They immediately suggested that we look at the work of Beatriz González, a leading figure among Latin American Pop artists and currently one the most influential living artists in Colombia, whose work explores sociopolitical subject matter specific to her country’s history and vernacular culture.
Like many of the works in the exhibition, including Marine Hugonnier’s series Art for Modern Architecture (Homage to Ellsworth Kelly), Robert Morris’s untitled gouache paintings on newsprint, and On Kawara’s storage boxes for his date paintings lined with local newspaper clippings, there is a direct link between González’s work and the newspaper and print culture. When Julio César Turbay Ayala became president of Colombia in 1979, González turned her sketchbook into a visual diary of sorts, producing a simple, stylized drawing each day based on the daily media coverage of his presidency. Her stated intent was to become a type of “court painter,” and to critically document the spectacle of leadership. Made between 1979 and 1981, these drawings—fragmentary depictions of Turbay attending sessions of Congress, meeting with church, government, and military personnel, and engaging in leisure activities—provide an intimate look at the disparate public aspects of power. These works are prime examples of the artist’s straightforward use of drawing in her artistic production, and mark a significant and more politically charged change in her work towards a more explicit reflection on the growing violence and turmoil that engulfed Colombia throughout the 1980s and 1990s.