Débora Arango

Museo de América

In 1955, an exhibition by the Colombian artist Débora Arango was censored in Madrid. Under pressure from the Colombian right, an ostensibly devout, Franco-ruled Spain turned its back on her bold and irreverent paintings. Now, half a century later, a much-changed Spanish capital has opened its doors to her. Despite the cultural bonds between Spain and Latin America, Latin American art is still largely unknown here. Consequently, this show—albeit of work by a ninety-seven-year-old artist—was a major revelation.

Given the ultra-Catholic mentality and provincial culture of the Colombia of Arango’s youth, the expressionist streak in her work, especially in the nudes painted from 1939 to 1944, is surprising. One may think of Otto Dix, but he wasn’t a direct influence; Débora—she signed her work with her given name alone—was a true original. Her nudes portray women of the underclass, like the

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