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Caballero, Luis (1943-1995)  
 
page: 1  2  

Rather than creating effects of conventional beauty, Caballero sought to convey the intense eroticism of aggressively masculine figures and to reveal the interaction of violence and sensuality. Often reaching from outside the picture area, hands press into the flesh of the torsos in a way that is at once tender and brutal. Sometimes he included pieces of rope and cloth, which call attention to parts of the anatomy and which imply bondage that could be intended playfully or hostilely.

Despite the pervasive sexual energy of Caballero's works, copulation is seldom shown, although it is occasionally implied by the organization of the bodies (for instance, by the placement of one figure directly behind another). However, rather than representing moments of sexual climax, Caballero generally preferred to evoke either frenzied foreplay or the lassitude following erotic satiation.

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Fascinated by accounts of Christian martyrs who ecstatically died for the love of Jesus, Caballero sought to infuse his depictions of men with the mystical intensity of Catholic religious paintings. To emphasize the parallels with traditional Catholic imagery, Caballero frequently created works in the triptych (that is, three panels) format, widely used for altarpieces in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. In a large (untitled) triptych, now in the Galería Garcés Velázquez y Beatriz Caballero, Bogotá (total measurements of 76 ¾ [height] x 153 ½ inches; 195 x 390 cm.), Caballero showed six figures, who seem to have fallen one over the other in contorted poses. It is unclear whether these men have just endured martyrdom or if they simply have succumbed to exhaustion following passionate lovemaking. Flashes of lightening intensify the dramatic power of this scene.

Final Years

By around 1990, Caballero's work had become increasingly sinister and dark, both in mood and in physical appearance. By defining figures primarily with harsh, angular lines, Caballero also intensified the aggressive mood of his compositions. He had long favored brownish and grayish tonalities, but he now restricted these to the most somber ranges, relieving them only by splotches of blood red. Although still ambiguous, the interactions of the figures in the later works seem more explicitly brutal and less erotically suggestive than in the earlier images.

Thus far, virtually all commentators have related this dramatic shift to an increasing preoccupation with war and other manifestations of political violence. However, Caballero never revealed any strong involvement with social issues other than freedom of sexual expression. Therefore, it seems more likely that the transformation in his work is connected with the deterioration of his health as a result of AIDS.

In 1995, Caballero returned to Bogotá, and he died there on June 19, 1995. The following year, the city of Bogotá established in his memory the Premio Luis Caballero, a major artistic prize, based on a competition among prominent Latin American artists, thirty-five years and older.

Although Caballero felt compelled to move to France in order to express his homosexuality, he is respected in his native country as one of the most important Colombian artists of all time. During the 1990s, major retrospectives of his achievements in Bogotá (for example, at the Luis Angel Arango Library, 1995, and National Museum, 1997) encouraged frank public discussion of the aspects of his images. Undoubtedly, this stimulus to greater tolerance for sexual diversity would have pleased the artist, who conveyed so eloquently the profound interactions of sensuality with other aspects of experience.

Richard G. Mann

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arts >> Overview:  Latin American Art

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arts >> Bacon, Francis

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arts >> Caravaggio

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arts >> Michelangelo Buonarroti

The most famous artist who ever lived, Michelangelo left an enormous legacy in sculpture, painting, drawing, architecture, and poetry; while the artist's sexual behavior cannot be documented, the homoerotic character of his drawings, letters, and poetry is unmistakable.


    Bibliography
   

Barnitz, Jacqueline. Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Luis Caballero: The Male Nude. New York: Nohra Haime Gallery, 1994. (Catalogue of Exhibition, May 3-May 29, 1994.)

Rodríguez, Marta. "Luis Caballero." Arte Nexus: Arte en Colombia 27 (January-March 1998): 121-23.

Rubiano Caballero, Germán. "Luis Caballero." Arte Nexus: Arte en Colombia 2 (October 1991): 100-103.

Sokolowski, Thomas. Luis Caballero: Large Scale Drawings. New York: Nohra Haime Gallery, 1991. (Catalogue of Exhibition, Grey Art Gallery, New York University, June 4-July 12, 1991).

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Caballero, Luis  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated January 13, 2009  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/caballero_l.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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