Critics’ Picks

Beatriz González, Los Suicidas del Sisga No 2, 1965, oil on canvas, 47 x 39”.


Beatriz González

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
March 22–September 2

Anyone who happened to have heard the story behind the series “Los suicidas del Sisga” (The Sisga Suicides), 1965, would have been intrigued: Two young religious fanatics in love drowned themselves in the Sisga Dam to keep from falling into sins of the flesh. It’s telling that, ignoring the event, what struck Beatriz González was the clumsiness of newspapers’ reproduction of the couple’s image—the excessive and grainy flatness of their smiling faces, the overall lack of detail.

This curiosity toward mass-produced images—their aesthetics, their political and affective clout—unites the strategies on display in this retrospective, which encompasses all the phases of González’s artmaking: her collection of photos culled from print media, her countless portraits of President Turbay, her votive religious imagery, her reworkings of masterpieces from art history, and her furniture sculptures. Also included are portraits of the suffering in Colombian society: corpse bearers, faces of the disappeared and of horrific killers. “I wanted to invent an image that showed the pain,” González once said.

She has. And yet she deals with such grimness with an intelligent sense of humor. Think, for instance, of her furniture works. The tabletop in La última mesa (The Last Table), 1970, is a reproduction of a holy card of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, while Saluti di San Pietro, trisagio (Saint Peter’s Greetings, trisagio), 1971, comprises three nightstands-objects often bedecked with pictures of saints-with the faces of different Popes in enamel. In Naturaleza casi muerta (Nature Almost Dead), 1970, she has emblazoned onto a thin metal bed an aching vision of Christ in the procession to Calvary. Seeing all of this, it is hard not to smile.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.