by Jeriah Hildwine
Osvaldo Budet, Romantic Political Affair at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, opens tomorrow, January 5th. Osvaldo and I were classmates in the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 2007; he was in his first year when I was in my second. He was doing good work then, and it’s gotten nothing but better.
While we were in school together, Osvaldo tried to balance three
disparate interests: painting, political activism, and documentary
film. He initially pursued these interests as separate entities,
making conventional (though political) paintings in a straightforward
realistic mode, then shooting unrelated documentaries of, for example, the antiwar protests in Washington DC.
In the work he’s done both in his final year and since graduating, he
has reconciled these interests in a cohesive and elegant solution. His
output is in the form of paintings
in which he has inserted himself into press photographs of historic
events, particularly politically loaded images of war and revolution.
Unlike his early student work, the paintings Osvaldo has been making
more recently are no longer so traditional in their execution. Still
essentially realist, Osvaldo recreates historical photographs, adding
himself into the scene a la Forrest Gump. What is unusual is his
medium; monochromatic oil paint is combined with rich black iron oxide,
silvery stainless steel, sparkling diamond dust, irridescent mica
flakes, and thick layers of glossy Envirotex resin. The result can
only be experienced in person; photographs do not do these paintings
I visited Osvaldo at the IPRAC while he was installing the show today,
and he talked to me a bit about the significance of the media. Each
element, he told me, corresponds to element of the process of
traditional analog filmmaking. The stainless steel represents the body
of the camera, the diamond dust represents an old technique of audio
recording which used a diamond element, the iron oxide (or was it the
mica?) represents the silver in the film, and the resin represents the
celluloid. In this way, although he is painting, he is directly
engaging the history of, and his fascination with, documentary film.
Some of Osvaldo’s other works, which still read very much as paintings,
start as found historical photographs, painstakingly manipulated in
Photoshop, printed, and then layered with diamond dust, glass beads,
and resin. In both these and the oil paintings, “cigarette burns,” the
indexing marks made on a piece of film, are replicated, as circular
collections of incandescent mica. Although reluctant to make “art
about art,” Osvaldo is interested in the phenomenon of the artist as
filmmaker, and the specific patterns of the cigarette burns are derived
from those found in some of Andy Warhol’s films.
Another art historical reference of a sort is the text in Osvaldo’s piece, Trotsky y la guerra civil Española
(Trotsky and the Spanish Civil War). The text in the second and third
panels appears at first to be cinematic subtitles like those in
Osvaldo’s other work. However, the text (both the words and in fact
the script itself) is derived from Goya’s Disasters of War.
In the second panel, the text Lo Mismo En Otras Partes (“The Same In Other Places) is derived from Goya’s Disaster No. 23.
Also, Osvaldo’s image of himself holding out a hammer, crossing the
blade of the airplane’s propeller, echoes the then-controversial cross
formed by the sword and gun in Goya’s image. (Osvalso told me that of
course, juxaposing the hammer with a propeller blade has an a different
connotation for him, as a Communist.)
In the third panel, the text Que Valor! is from Goya’s Disaster No.7.
The image is similar as well; a woman steps up to fire a cannon after
its crew have been killed. The choice of Goya as a reference is not
arbitrary. Goya’s Disasters depict scenes from the Peninsular War of 1804-1814, and could hardly be more a more appropriate reference for the depiction of the Spanish Civil War.
The opening reception for Romantic Political Affair is tomorrow, January 5th, from 5pm until 9pm. I will be there, and you should come, too! The
show runs until March 5th. The Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and
Culture is at 3015 West Division St., in Humboldt Park.