The Slick Territorial Pissings of Carlos Betancourt
Brazen bodies with black charcoal, ink, leaf, poetry, and otherwise ordinary earthly materials are a few of the tools Carlos Betancourt uses in the process of metaphorically tattooing restless models. These markings are presented in monumental banners in which the artist documents his fixation with the symbols of the Pre-Colonial Taino culture from the Caribbean and the contemporary world of advertising. At first glance both worlds mingle and flirt in the surface of the glossy banners but closer inspection reveals
a clash of opposites, a forceful union of the irreverence associated with advertising and the humble grace of ancestral symbols.
Betancourt�s existential tantrums are channeled through a hybrid text he writes and draws obsessively on the human body. Although it has the form, feel and rhythm of poetry; the organic text functions as the documentation of an action- a sadist gesture or intimate argument that the viewer will never be able to fully read or understand but only experience. Such is the case in "Wynwood Series 1," where a crestfallen brunette stands unclothed, completely covered in black scribbles but for her left hand which has been
rubbed with blue dust. In company of the model are 3 sarcastic looking and odd Christmas adornments, illuminated from their hollow insides, whose attire and posture resemble choirboys.
Another photo in the series has the woman, looking tired and lonesome, sitting still on a wooden bench and staring at the infinite while listening to the muted singing statues. As part of the scribbles that cover her pale leg one can read: "Comandante Guevara." Not much of El Che is meant as a political reference but as a conscious, melancholic effort to trace his genealogical tree that spans from Puerto Rico to Cuba and Miami. By tracing his roots and his history Betancourt makes a mark, or pees his territory as dogs do, leaving the scent of his cultural background, his experience, taste and self.
Violence in product placement and the assault of the senses by excess in visuals are tactics that Betancourt uses to perfection, not only in the epic scope of his work and quality in the image but in the subordination of his models, as seen in the series"HOMBRE FRENTE A MUELLE." Here, a male model lays face down on a dirty sidewalk, in a pose reminiscent of Ana Mendieta�s rape incident?, the male model seems to have been submitted to irreverent, almost sadomachoist scribbling and styling of Betancourt.
While the artist dresses his models, willing or not, in his signature style, other photo series have him as the subject. Example is " El Yunque" where the artist lays bare on top of a waterfall, naked but for dirty tennis shoes to which the gaze is drawn. The rapture of the gaze by such ordinary object amidst the pure environment sends signals to the viewer that point to a campy and eerie reading of the piece. Here the artist performs the role of afflicted contemporary cult leader, shaman, leper messiah or new age exorcist in waiting. Just like the members of the "New Millennium Cult," that so in famously awaited the Second Coming of the Christ in black uniforms and Nike shoes.
Dirty and obsessive, Betancourt�s colonization of his identity and that of
others, sets Betancourt apart from the cliched Latino aesthetic based on the
glorification of the body and its relationship to the nature and self.
Instead, and more like Cindy Sherman, Vito Acconci and Vanessa Beecroft,
Betancourt glorifies himself as a product and as a signature.