The Eye in the Sky (2006)

The Eye of the Sky is Open: The Art of Carlos Betancourt.

 

The Yoruba of Nigeria have  an idiom for good weather:  the eye of the sky is open.   This is the world of Carlos Betancourt, a world ruled by color,  starting with blue, like Klein, like  Matisse.  Betancourt thinks  cosmologically,  too: the dome of the sky, the surge of the sea,  and the straight-lined horizon are on his mind. This  puts him in parallel  with ancestral cultures, like the  makers of the Nazca lines,  or,  more to the point.  Ana Mendieta's fusion of body and landscape.  This is an artist  inspired by faraway epochs;  sites and traditions where women and men paint on  the canvas of body,  looking like worlds aflame with red pigment,   alive with dotted signs of kinesis and majesty.

       This is the way we meet him,  body cropped artfully,  hands  offering an object,  biceps and pectorals curving with  strength,  skin dressed in jolts of blue and gold pigment, as if  scratched by the forces of nature.  [Plate l]  This is his idea of a footnote,  to pose  at a spot near where his clearest and most constant influence,  Ana Mendieta,  once herself worked. He is holding in both hands  a nest that had fallen from a tree in Little Havana, not far from  where Ana Mendieta had famously fashioned one  of her silhouettes.  With this nest he is offering an  architecture of life,  meant for small creatures who,  like the soul of Mendieta,  eventually took flight.

 

     Betancourt's  late colleague,  Keith Haring,  once said "primordial styles make you

new", and proved it with spaceships circling the pyramids.   Betancourt,  similarly,  brings  into consonance visions  ancient  and contemporary.  Like the powerful silhouettes of

Kara Walker,  Carlos's work cries out for the wall,  not the page.  Caught in a catalogue,  the sly promiscuities of  Walker unduly are  spotlit by linear arrangements.  This  slows  the art down.  But march them around the white walls of a gallery and aesthetics  take over,  putting the obscene in its place.

 Similarly,  Carlos loves to pose without clothes.   White butt on  white page accents a

narcissist.   But consider the mural,  Worshipping of My Ancestors:  five photographs of him bare-chested on a wall,  body blazing lurid orange,  pointing and signing in five different ways.   [Plate 2]  By involving  his body in a procession of gestures things get serious:   he's following the path of ritual,  taking us back to women and men who believed they  had a responsibility for bringing back Spring with motion and gesture,   for lighting up winter with candles on evergreens.

      The ancient Peruvians were unafraid to use whole valleys as canvas, making  the famous lines of the Nazca.  Betancourt lets a lagoon paint a backdrop  for an ochre- marked, languorous,  portrait of his body. . [Plate 3]  He  reclines  in a corner, gazing out at the water. One hand shows  his  heart,   the other grasps a conch shell.  Photography

rules:  cropping is all.   The resulting  one-corner composition recalls,  to this art historian,  a favored device of the painters of the Southern Sung.

       Betancourt likes to work in series.  In this way he is not so much portraying the rituals

of Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean cultures, as casting them, like actors,  in a vast  photo-muralized show.   An example:  a thicket of trees frames the profile of a naked woman.  Her  breast is engorged, her  nipple erect,  and her belly protrudes with  'the obstetric line',  the curve of a woman come to full term.  Framing  thusly,   as if in an improvised altar hidden the woods,  he dramatizes her midriff as a vessel for children,  and her nipple as  a spout for their nourishment.  He is playing with raw nature but the intention  is love.   He is saying with photographed  body art  what Neruda said with words:  I want to do

with you what Spring does with  cherry trees.

      In other words,  he wants us to blossom,  red warm and hot..  Consider  a photograph of an elegant  woman with blue eyes whom he's covered  with pink paint [Plate 5] She is the  canvas but the canvas stares back.  In control of all this,  Betancourt is not so much painting his subject, then photographing her,  as filming her portrait  for dramatic  projection on a huge slice of gallery space that reads like a screen.

       Betancourt's oeuvre  is peopled with echoes of natïve  accomplishment,  Taino, Lucumi, Afro-Puerto Rican,  even the original Berber inhabitants of the Islas Canarias.  He dreams of their festivals, brilliant and  fast.  From  constant immersion in the arts of native peoples  sometimes their power comes over his work,  making us live once again in their time.

      Take for instance,  a well-armed  earthwork,  showing a row of cavities dug into earth  ritualized with white pigment,  Each hole is glowing,  with bright fuchsia paint.  Arms carefully crossed, as if to ward off a force or a problem,  a reclining figure places his head within one of these cavities.   This strong composition lies  in spiritual kinship with the famous outline of a hand with a line of red dots  found in the prehistoric cave of Pech-Merle at Cabrerets in France .  The dots are amazing.  They  pulse on the wall like the hearts of young  embryos,  naked to our eyes without a body to hide them.   By  means equally dramatic  Betancourt involves us in a private ritual, aimed at something primordial and important, like the  secret of life or  the order of the world.

      In the last few years, his work  has .miraculously exfoliated, ,  taking him through  changes of style and location.  For instance,  out of the soil of Loiza Aldea,  famed center for bomba dancing and other black traditions on the north coast of  the island of Puerto Rico,  Betancourt in 2002 fashioned myriad little sculptures and unified this series by

painting them blue.  Some of them read like fugitive pieces of jewelry,  cut from turquoise..  As he experiments with these forms he gets bolder and bolder until finally he lets them set sail in boat-like compositions moored on the floor of gallery space [Plates 7 and 8] They recall  the floor compositions by  Jose Bedia,  in addition to works by Tony Cragg,  the British sculptor and environment-maker.    One [Plate 8]  reads like a barge,  laden with giant goblets,  plates,  and small vessels.

      There is a great  tradition of masks in Puerto Rico.   Betancourt,  who himself is Puerto

Rican,  plugs into that.  There is a style of mask made from cocoanut shells,  bristling with

insertions of  multiple horns.   He played with this horned element until he got a sense of it: masking is hiding.   Suddenly he was making his own kind of mask,  binding strange forms to the front of the face,  then photographing the result  against fast-moving water and huge grayish stones. [plate 9]

All of the above serves as cultural preparation for Betancourt's exciting new  effort, The Enchanted Island, a fleeting exhibition of thousands of miniature towers made from a combination of sand and glue.  They are arranged in a solid grid across the floor of the

gallery rooms.  The whole installation will eventually be erased by the artist.   The  ephemeral nature  of these ritual forms  match other fleeting forms, like his neo-Puerto Rican masks;  gleaming pools of fuschia in white earth;  and even what might be

termed a  self-Pieta, where  his body is draped  not on Mary but  earth by the water.

.  Note that in the last-mentioned composition he holds at his midriff  a  pilgrim's

white  shell,  a hint that he's  constantly moving,  leaving behind impermanent  traces on the road to new work.

Enchanted Island slows you down,   like rumble-treads guarding a fast-lane   toll exit.  Their bristling texture,  their obsessive repetiveness, , take and compel us.  They are making things happen across time and space.  We discover the artist,  appropriately naked, before  this rich earthwork.  He sits  like a shaman,  surveying a song-line on the soil of Australia.  [Plate 10]   Art is his  discipline:  discovery of self through immersion in vision..

 

 

Robert Farris Thompson

February 14,  2006

New Haven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

02:22 PM 2/14/2006, you wrote:

 

>Dear Mr. Thompson

>  thank you for getting the text to us.

>But, I'm wondering if you don't have a digital format text we can just

>send to the designer.

> 

>Thank you very mcuh and sorry for the inconveniences

> 

>JOdie Dinapoli

> 

> 

> 

> >>Jodie Dinapoli

> >

> >

> >

 



 
                     
                            The Eye of the Sky is Open:  The Art of Carlos Betancourt.

     The Yoruba of Nigeria have  an idiom for good weather:  the eye of the sky is open.   This is the world of Carlos Betancourt, a world ruled by color,  starting with blue, like Klein, like  Matisse.  Betancourt thinks  cosmologically,  too: the dome of the sky, the surge of the sea,  and the straight-lined horizon are on his mind .  This  puts him in parallel  with ancestral cultures, like the  makers of the Nazca lines,  or,  more to the point.  Ana  Mendieta's fusion of body and landscape.  This is an artist  inspired by faraway epochs;  sites and traditions where women and men paint on  the canvas of body,  looking like worlds aflame with red pigment,   alive with dotted signs of kinesis and majesty.
      This is the way we meet him,  body cropped artfully,  hands  offering an object,  biceps and pectorals curving with  strength,  skin dressed in jolts of blue and gold pigment, as if  scratched by the forces of nature.  [Plate l]  This is his idea of a footnote,  to pose  at a spot near where his clearest and most constant influence,  Ana Mendieta,  once herself worked. He is holding in both hands  a nest that had fallen from a tree in Little Havana, not far from  where Ana Mendieta had famously fashioned one  of her silhouettes.  With this nest he is offering an  architecture of life,  meant for small creatures who,  like the soul of Mendieta,  eventually took flight. 

    Betancourt's  late colleague,  Keith Haring,  once said "primordial styles make you new", and proved it with spaceships circling the pyramids.   Betancourt,  similarly,  brings  into consonance visions  ancient  and contemporary.  Like the powerful silhouettes of Kara Walker,  Carlos's work cries out for the wall,  not the page.  Caught in a catalogue,  the sly promiscuities of  Walker unduly are  spotlit by linear arrangements.  This  slows  the art down.  But march them around the white walls of a gallery and aesthetics  take over,  putting the obscene in its place. 
     Similarly,  Carlos loves to pose without clothes.   White butt on  white page accents a narcissist.   But consider the mural,  Worshipping of My Ancestors:  five photographs of him bare-chested on a wall,  body blazing lurid orange,  pointing and signing in five different ways.   [Plate 2]  By involving  his body in a procession of gestures things get serious:   he's following the path of ritual,  taking us back to women and men who believed they  had a responsibility for bringing back Spring with motion and gesture,   for lighting up winter with candles on evergreens. 
     The ancient Peruvians were unafraid to use whole valleys as canvas, making  the famous lines of the Nazca.  Betancourt lets a lagoon paint a backdrop  for an ochre- marked, languorous,  portrait of his body. . [Plate 3]  He  reclines  in a corner, gazing out at the water. One hand shows  his  heart,   the other grasps a conch shell.  Photography rules:  cropping is all.   The resulting  one-corner composition recalls,  to this art historian,  a favored device of the painters of the Southern Sung. 
      Betancourt likes to work in series.  In this way he is not so much portraying the rituals of Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean cultures, as casting them, like actors,  in a vast  photo-muralized show.   An example:  a thicket of trees frames the profile of a naked woman.  Her  breast is engorged, her  nipple erect,  and her belly protrudes with  'the obstetric line',  the curve of a woman come to full term.  Framing  thusly,   as if in an improvised altar hidden the woods,  he dramatizes her midriff as a vessel for children,  and her nipple as  a spout for their nourishment.  He is playing with raw nature but the intention  is love.   He is saying with photographed  body art  what Neruda said with words:  I want to do with you what Spring does with  cherry trees.
     In other words,  he wants us to blossom,  red warm and hot..  Consider  a photograph of an elegant  woman with blue eyes whom he's covered  with pink paint [Plate 5]
She is the  canvas but the canvas stares back.  In control of all this,  Betancourt is not so much painting his subject, then photographing her,  as filming her portrait  for dramatic  projection on a huge slice of gallery space that reads like a screen. 
      Betancourt's oeuvre  is peopled with echoes of natïve  accomplishment,  Taino,  Lucumi,  Afro-Puerto Rican,  even the original Berber inhabitants of the Islas Canarias.  He dreams of their festivals, brilliant and  fast.  From  constant immersion in the arts of native peoples  sometimes their power comes over his work,  making us live once again in their time.
     Take for instance,  a well-armed  earthwork,  showing a row of cavities dug into earth  ritualized with white pigment,  Each hole is glowing,  with bright fuchsia paint.  Arms carefully crossed, as if to ward off a force or a problem,  a reclining figure places his head within one of these cavities.   This strong composition lies  in spiritual kinship with the famous outline of a hand with a line of red dots  found in the prehistoric cave of Pech-Merle at Cabrerets in France .  The dots are amazing.  They  pulse on the wall like the hearts of young  embryos,  naked to our eyes without a body to hide them.   By  means equally dramatic  Betancourt involves us in a private ritual, aimed at something primordial and important, like the  secret of life or  the order of the world.
     In the last few years, his work  has .miraculously exfoliated, ,  taking him through  changes of style and location.  For instance,  out of the soil of Loiza Aldea,  famed center for bomba dancing and other black traditions on the north coast of  the island of Puerto Rico,  Betancourt in 2002 fashioned myriad little sculptures and unified this series by painting them blue.  Some of them read like fugitive pieces of jewelry,  cut from turquoise..  As he experiments with these forms he gets bolder and bolder until finally he lets them set sail in boat-like compositions moored on the floor of gallery space [Plates 7 and 8] They recall  the floor compositions by  Jose Bedia,  in addition to works by Tony Cragg,  the British sculptor and environment-maker.    One [Plate 8]  reads like a barge,  laden with giant goblets,  plates,  and small vessels.
     There is a great  tradition of masks in Puerto Rico.   Betancourt,  who himself is Puerto Rican,  plugs into that.  There is a style of mask made from cocoanut shells,  bristling with insertions of  multiple horns.   He played with this horned element until he got a sense of it: masking is hiding.   Suddenly he was making his own kind of mask,  binding strange forms to the front of the face,  then photographing the result  against fast-moving water and huge grayish stones. [plate 9]
      All of the above serves as cultural preparation for Betancourt's exciting new  effort, The Enchanted Island, a fleeting exhibition of thousands of miniature towers made from a combination of sand and glue.  They are arranged in a solid grid across the floor of the gallery rooms.  The whole installation will eventually be erased by the artist.   The  ephemeral nature  of these ritual forms  match other fleeting forms, like his neo-Puerto Rican masks;  gleaming pools of fuschia in white earth;  and even what might be termed a  self-Pieta, where  his body is draped  not on Mary but  earth by the water. .  Note that in the last-mentioned composition he holds at his midriff  a  pilgrim's white  shell,  a hint that he's  constantly moving,  leaving behind impermanent  traces on the road to new work..
     Enchanted Island slows you down,   like rumble-treads guarding a fast-lane   toll exit. .  Their bristling texture,  their obsessive repetiveness, , take and compel us.  They are making things happen across time and space.  We discover the artist,  appropriately naked, before  this rich earthwork.  He sits  like a shaman,  surveying a song-line on the soil of Australia.  [Plate 10]   Art is his  discipline:  discovery of self through immersion in vision..     


Robert Farris Thompson
February 14,  2006
New Haven.






02:22 PM 2/14/2006, you wrote:

Dear Mr. Thompson
 thank you for getting the text to us.
But, I'm wondering if you don't have a digital format text we can just
send to the designer.

Thank you very mcuh and sorry for the inconveniences

JOdie Dinapoli

 

                             The Eye of the Sky

is Open:  The Art of Carlos Betancourt.

 

      The Yoruba of Nigeria have  an idiom for

good weather:  the eye of the sky is open.   This

is the world of Carlos Betancourt, a world ruled

by color,  starting with blue, like Klein,

like  Matisse.  Betancourt

thinks  cosmologically,  too: the dome of the

sky, the surge of the sea,  and the

straight-lined horizon are on his mind

.  This  puts him in parallel  with ancestral

cultures, like the  makers of the Nazca

lines,  or,  more to the point.  Ana  Mendieta's

fusion of body and landscape.  This is an

artist  inspired by faraway epochs;  sites and

traditions where women and men paint on  the

canvas of body,  looking like worlds aflame with

red pigment,   alive with dotted signs of kinesis and majesty.

       This is the way we meet him,  body cropped

artfully,  hands  offering an object,  biceps and

pectorals curving with  strength,  skin dressed

in jolts of blue and gold pigment, as

if  scratched by the forces of nature.  [Plate

l]  This is his idea of a footnote,  to pose  at

a spot near where his clearest and most constant

influence,  Ana Mendieta,  once herself worked.

He is holding in both hands  a nest that had

fallen from a tree in Little Havana, not far

from  where Ana Mendieta had famously fashioned

one  of her silhouettes.  With this nest he is

offering an  architecture of life,  meant for

small creatures who,  like the soul of Mendieta,  eventually took flight.

 

     Betancourt's  late colleague,  Keith

Haring,  once said "primordial styles make you

new", and proved it with spaceships circling the

pyramids.   Betancourt,  similarly,  brings  into

consonance visions  ancient  and

contemporary.  Like the powerful silhouettes of

Kara Walker,  Carlos's work cries out for the

wall,  not the page.  Caught in a catalogue,  the

sly promiscuities of  Walker unduly are  spotlit

by linear arrangements.  This  slows  the art

down.  But march them around the white walls of a

gallery and aesthetics  take over,  putting the obscene in its place.

      Similarly,  Carlos loves to pose without

clothes.   White butt on  white page accents a

narcissist.   But consider the

mural,  Worshipping of My Ancestors:  five

photographs of him bare-chested on a wall,  body

blazing lurid orange,  pointing and signing in

five different ways.   [Plate 2]  By

involving  his body in a procession of gestures

things get serious:   he's following the path of

ritual,  taking us back to women and men who

believed they  had a responsibility for bringing

back Spring with motion and gesture,   for

lighting up winter with candles on evergreens.

      The ancient Peruvians were unafraid to use

whole valleys as canvas, making  the famous lines

of the Nazca.  Betancourt lets a lagoon paint a

backdrop  for an ochre- marked,

languorous,  portrait of his body. . [Plate

3]  He  reclines  in a corner, gazing out at the

water. One hand shows  his  heart,   the other

grasps a conch shell.  Photography

rules:  cropping is all.   The

resulting  one-corner composition recalls,  to

this art historian,  a favored device of the painters of the Southern Sung.

       Betancourt likes to work in series.  In

this way he is not so much portraying the rituals

of Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean cultures, as

casting them, like actors,  in a

vast  photo-muralized show.   An example:  a

thicket of trees frames the profile of a naked

woman.  Her  breast is engorged, her  nipple

erect,  and her belly protrudes with  'the

obstetric line',  the curve of a woman come to

full term.  Framing  thusly,   as if in an

improvised altar hidden the woods,  he dramatizes

her midriff as a vessel for children,  and her

nipple as  a spout for their nourishment.  He is

playing with raw nature but the intention  is

love.   He is saying with photographed  body

art  what Neruda said with words:  I want to do

with you what Spring does with  cherry trees.

      In other words,  he wants us to

blossom,  red warm and hot..  Consider  a

photograph of an elegant  woman with blue eyes

whom he's covered  with pink paint [Plate 5]

She is the  canvas but the canvas stares

back.  In control of all this,  Betancourt is not

so much painting his subject, then photographing

her,  as filming her portrait  for

dramatic  projection on a huge slice of gallery

space that reads like a screen.

       Betancourt's oeuvre  is peopled with

echoes of

natïve  accomplishment,  Taino,  Lucumi,

Afro-Puerto Rican,  even the original Berber

inhabitants of the Islas Canarias.  He dreams of

their festivals, brilliant

and  fast.  From  constant immersion in the arts

of native peoples  sometimes their power comes

over his work,  making us live once again in their time.

      Take for instance,  a

well-armed  earthwork,  showing a row of cavities

dug into earth  ritualized with white

pigment,  Each hole is glowing,  with bright

fuchsia paint.  Arms carefully crossed, as if to

ward off a force or a problem,  a reclining

figure places his head within one of these

cavities.   This strong composition lies  in

spiritual kinship with the famous outline of a

hand with a line of red dots  found in the

prehistoric cave of Pech-Merle at Cabrerets in

France .  The dots are amazing.  They  pulse on

the wall like the hearts of

young  embryos,  naked to our eyes without a body

to hide them.   By  means equally

dramatic  Betancourt involves us in a private

ritual, aimed at something primordial and

important, like the  secret of life or  the order of the world.

      In the last few years, his work  has

.miraculously exfoliated, ,  taking him

through  changes of style and location.  For

instance,  out of the soil of Loiza Aldea,  famed

center for bomba dancing and other black

traditions on the north coast of  the island of

Puerto Rico,  Betancourt in 2002 fashioned myriad

little sculptures and unified this series by

painting them blue.  Some of them read like

fugitive pieces of jewelry,  cut from

turquoise..  As he experiments with these forms

he gets bolder and bolder until finally he lets

them set sail in boat-like compositions moored on

the floor of gallery space [Plates 7 and 8] They

recall  the floor compositions by  Jose

Bedia,  in addition to works by Tony Cragg,  the

British sculptor and environment-maker.    One

[Plate 8]  reads like a barge,  laden with giant

goblets,  plates,  and small vessels.

      There is a great  tradition of masks in

Puerto Rico.   Betancourt,  who himself is Puerto

Rican,  plugs into that.  There is a style of

mask made from cocoanut shells,  bristling with

insertions of  multiple horns.   He played with

this horned element until he got a sense of it:

masking is hiding.   Suddenly he was making his

own kind of mask,  binding strange forms to the

front of the face,  then photographing the

result  against fast-moving water and huge grayish stones. [plate 9]

       All of the above serves as cultural

preparation for Betancourt's exciting

new  effort, The Enchanted Island, a fleeting

exhibition of thousands of miniature towers made

from a combination of sand and glue.  They are

arranged in a solid grid across the floor of the

gallery rooms.  The whole installation will

eventually be erased by the

artist.   The  ephemeral nature  of these ritual

forms  match other fleeting forms, like his

neo-Puerto Rican masks;  gleaming pools of

fuschia in white earth;  and even what might be

termed a  self-Pieta, where  his body is

draped  not on Mary but  earth by the water.

.  Note that in the last-mentioned composition he

holds at his midriff  a  pilgrim's

white  shell,  a hint that he's  constantly

moving,  leaving behind impermanent  traces on the road to new work..

      Enchanted Island slows you down,   like

rumble-treads guarding a fast-lane   toll exit.

.  Their bristling texture,  their obsessive

repetiveness, , take and compel us.  They are

making things happen across time and space.  We

discover the artist,  appropriately naked,

before  this rich earthwork.  He sits  like a

shaman,  surveying a song-line on the soil of

Australia.  [Plate 10]   Art is

his  discipline:  discovery of self through immersion in vision..

 

 

Robert Farris Thompson

February 14,  2006

New Haven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

02:22 PM 2/14/2006, you wrote:

 

>Dear Mr. Thompson

>  thank you for getting the text to us.

>But, I'm wondering if you don't have a digital format text we can just

>send to the designer.

> 

>Thank you very mcuh and sorry for the inconveniences

> 

>JOdie Dinapoli

> 

> 

> 

> >>Jodie Dinapoli

> >

> >

> >

 



 
                     
                            The Eye of the Sky is Open:  The Art of Carlos Betancourt.

     The Yoruba of Nigeria have  an idiom for good weather:  the eye of the sky is open.   This is the world of Carlos Betancourt, a world ruled by color,  starting with blue, like Klein, like  Matisse.  Betancourt thinks  cosmologically,  too: the dome of the sky, the surge of the sea,  and the straight-lined horizon are on his mind .  This  puts him in parallel  with ancestral cultures, like the  makers of the Nazca lines,  or,  more to the point.  Ana  Mendieta's fusion of body and landscape.  This is an artist  inspired by faraway epochs;  sites and traditions where women and men paint on  the canvas of body,  looking like worlds aflame with red pigment,   alive with dotted signs of kinesis and majesty.
      This is the way we meet him,  body cropped artfully,  hands  offering an object,  biceps and pectorals curving with  strength,  skin dressed in jolts of blue and gold pigment, as if  scratched by the forces of nature.  [Plate l]  This is his idea of a footnote,  to pose  at a spot near where his clearest and most constant influence,  Ana Mendieta,  once herself worked. He is holding in both hands  a nest that had fallen from a tree in Little Havana, not far from  where Ana Mendieta had famously fashioned one  of her silhouettes.  With this nest he is offering an  architecture of life,  meant for small creatures who,  like the soul of Mendieta,  eventually took flight. 

    Betancourt's  late colleague,  Keith Haring,  once said "primordial styles make you new", and proved it with spaceships circling the pyramids.   Betancourt,  similarly,  brings  into consonance visions  ancient  and contemporary.  Like the powerful silhouettes of Kara Walker,  Carlos's work cries out for the wall,  not the page.  Caught in a catalogue,  the sly promiscuities of  Walker unduly are  spotlit by linear arrangements.  This  slows  the art down.  But march them around the white walls of a gallery and aesthetics  take over,  putting the obscene in its place. 
     Similarly,  Carlos loves to pose without clothes.   White butt on  white page accents a narcissist.   But consider the mural,  Worshipping of My Ancestors:  five photographs of him bare-chested on a wall,  body blazing lurid orange,  pointing and signing in five different ways.   [Plate 2]  By involving  his body in a procession of gestures things get serious:   he's following the path of ritual,  taking us back to women and men who believed they  had a responsibility for bringing back Spring with motion and gesture,   for lighting up winter with candles on evergreens. 
     The ancient Peruvians were unafraid to use whole valleys as canvas, making  the famous lines of the Nazca.  Betancourt lets a lagoon paint a backdrop  for an ochre- marked, languorous,  portrait of his body. . [Plate 3]  He  reclines  in a corner, gazing out at the water. One hand shows  his  heart,   the other grasps a conch shell.  Photography rules:  cropping is all.   The resulting  one-corner composition recalls,  to this art historian,  a favored device of the painters of the Southern Sung. 
      Betancourt likes to work in series.  In this way he is not so much portraying the rituals of Amerindian and Afro-Caribbean cultures, as casting them, like actors,  in a vast  photo-muralized show.   An example:  a thicket of trees frames the profile of a naked woman.  Her  breast is engorged, her  nipple erect,  and her belly protrudes with  'the obstetric line',  the curve of a woman come to full term.  Framing  thusly,   as if in an improvised altar hidden the woods,  he dramatizes her midriff as a vessel for children,  and her nipple as  a spout for their nourishment.  He is playing with raw nature but the intention  is love.   He is saying with photographed  body art  what Neruda said with words:  I want to do with you what Spring does with  cherry trees.
     In other words,  he wants us to blossom,  red warm and hot..  Consider  a photograph of an elegant  woman with blue eyes whom he's covered  with pink paint [Plate 5]
She is the  canvas but the canvas stares back.  In control of all this,  Betancourt is not so much painting his subject, then photographing her,  as filming her portrait  for dramatic  projection on a huge slice of gallery space that reads like a screen. 
      Betancourt's oeuvre  is peopled with echoes of natïve  accomplishment,  Taino,  Lucumi,  Afro-Puerto Rican,  even the original Berber inhabitants of the Islas Canarias.  He dreams of their festivals, brilliant and  fast.  From  constant immersion in the arts of native peoples  sometimes their power comes over his work,  making us live once again in their time.
     Take for instance,  a well-armed  earthwork,  showing a row of cavities dug into earth  ritualized with white pigment,  Each hole is glowing,  with bright fuchsia paint.  Arms carefully crossed, as if to ward off a force or a problem,  a reclining figure places his head within one of these cavities.   This strong composition lies  in spiritual kinship with the famous outline of a hand with a line of red dots  found in the prehistoric cave of Pech-Merle at Cabrerets in France .  The dots are amazing.  They  pulse on the wall like the hearts of young  embryos,  naked to our eyes without a body to hide them.   By  means equally dramatic  Betancourt involves us in a private ritual, aimed at something primordial and important, like the  secret of life or  the order of the world.
     In the last few years, his work  has .miraculously exfoliated, ,  taking him through  changes of style and location.  For instance,  out of the soil of Loiza Aldea,  famed center for bomba dancing and other black traditions on the north coast of  the island of Puerto Rico,  Betancourt in 2002 fashioned myriad little sculptures and unified this series by painting them blue.  Some of them read like fugitive pieces of jewelry,  cut from turquoise..  As he experiments with these forms he gets bolder and bolder until finally he lets them set sail in boat-like compositions moored on the floor of gallery space [Plates 7 and 8] They recall  the floor compositions by  Jose Bedia,  in addition to works by Tony Cragg,  the British sculptor and environment-maker.    One [Plate 8]  reads like a barge,  laden with giant goblets,  plates,  and small vessels.
     There is a great  tradition of masks in Puerto Rico.   Betancourt,  who himself is Puerto Rican,  plugs into that.  There is a style of mask made from cocoanut shells,  bristling with insertions of  multiple horns.   He played with this horned element until he got a sense of it: masking is hiding.   Suddenly he was making his own kind of mask,  binding strange forms to the front of the face,  then photographing the result  against fast-moving water and huge grayish stones. [plate 9]
      All of the above serves as cultural preparation for Betancourt's exciting new  effort, The Enchanted Island, a fleeting exhibition of thousands of miniature towers made from a combination of sand and glue.  They are arranged in a solid grid across the floor of the gallery rooms.  The whole installation will eventually be erased by the artist.   The  ephemeral nature  of these ritual forms  match other fleeting forms, like his neo-Puerto Rican masks;  gleaming pools of fuschia in white earth;  and even what might be termed a  self-Pieta, where  his body is draped  not on Mary but  earth by the water. .  Note that in the last-mentioned composition he holds at his midriff  a  pilgrim's white  shell,  a hint that he's  constantly moving,  leaving behind impermanent  traces on the road to new work..
     Enchanted Island slows you down,   like rumble-treads guarding a fast-lane   toll exit. .  Their bristling texture,  their obsessive repetiveness, , take and compel us.  They are making things happen across time and space.  We discover the artist,  appropriately naked, before  this rich earthwork.  He sits  like a shaman,  surveying a song-line on the soil of Australia.  [Plate 10]   Art is his  discipline:  discovery of self through immersion in vision..     


Robert Farris Thompson
February 14,  2006
New Haven.






02:22 PM 2/14/2006, you wrote:

Dear Mr. Thompson
 thank you for getting the text to us.
But, I'm wondering if you don't have a digital format text we can just
send to the designer.

Thank you very mcuh and sorry for the inconveniences

JOdie Dinapoli



>>Jodie Dinapoli
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