Chicago

René Santos

Feature

Both history and the definition of ideal beauty are constantly being revised to fit the needs of fashion. Each is open to subsequent reinterpretation. In a series of untitled paintings from 1985, René Santos suggests that the documentation of history is itself subjective, and refers to the artist’s collusion in the legitimation of dubious historical truths.

Santos’ unframed rectangular canvases, medium-sized for easy dialogue, are covered with oil washes of various dull blues; a trompe l’oeil encaustic frame is set into each atmospheric color field. In some paintings this interior frame floats emptily calmly mapping out the center of the field, suggesting a formalist exercise in the psychology of pure perception or an erasure of esthetic ideals. In other paintings the frames enclose monochromatic portraits modeled on Nadar’s photographs of 19th-century French personages who made debatable

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