Carlos Silva

I have known for some time previous Diego Barboza’s nudes, so that the perspective of being able to appreciate a new set, dedicated to a monothematic exhibition, it could only please me because the expectations were high, both from the artist as from the public , habituated to the excellence of his still lives or belongings and his characters. Post historical- as the Hipoinfantes. And with the nude, Barboza is doubly challenging because he chooses his models according to his way of painting and these are no longer teenagers or young beautiful women, of perky breasts and with that "smooth flesh that incites a bite", -according to Baudelaire’s verse- but women of flesh hit by time and life, distorted and deformed again by the art of Barboza. As in a Boucher’s nude the spectator could doubly indulge, in the good painting and the beauty of the model, this way Barboza banishes the second option so that only the first reading is allowed: the beauty of painting itself and by itself.

I would have named this exhibition of oil paintings and pastels The story of Venus and for the following reason. According to the myth on the origin of Aphrodite, it is Cronos, the god of time, who severs, in front of Gaia, Ouranos’ testicles, they fall into the sea and from the union of the semen with the water the goddess is born. Thus, it is the only deity that owes its origin to time, to history, as interpreted by Barboza, a Venus of this world, away from the pristinely mythic and zoomed through the archetypal constellation, to the life of men.

The nude, from the mistakenly called prehistoric "Venus" until the Western plastic is penetrated consubstantially by Christianity, it is the paradigm of the outer body it is a sure sign of the being in the nature in a spatial, historical and punctate mode, as a body among bodies, without establishing the radical ontological difference that exists between the conscious being and the entities shapers of the universe. Until the advent of the "inner man" Christian according to Roman Period and beginnings of the peak Middle Ages, the nude is the quintessence of a concept capable of understanding the man only as a specific unit limited in itself by its surface, in its purely external dimension, the Greek soma, in synthesis.

Everything is defined, bounded by a presentation of the human body, without the concerns of the infinite cosmic or the Augustinians inner depths of the soul .Neither in the fat females of the Upper Paleolithic, nor in the statues of classical antiquity- and not even in pre-Christian Hellenism art- there are approaches aimed at scrutinizing the psychological individual, but the generic as ideal type, and manifested in the very well-defined corporal extension.

When Miguel Angel answered the unpleased boorish by the distance between his works and the classical models, that between these and him, Christ mediated, he was at the heart of the difference: there is more spirit and inner revelation in Giotto's torso of The Last Judgment, in the Danae’s outstretched hand of Rembrandt, in the neck that Correggio painted in The Dream of Andromeda, or in the pelvis of Goya’s Nude Maja, than in any face of the Greco-Roman antiquity. After the beautiful and sensual psychological abundance even unknown to the busts of the Roman Empire.

With Diego Barboza, the flesh acquires intensity, as a matter subject to misery and sin but also to the role of externalizing a psyche, the richest and most fruitful of everything human. The anthropological conception of the artist before the female nude is like the appreciation of the personal psychic energy and of the corresponding characterizing features of the faces, for the eloquence of the corporal surface and, sometimes, of certain intimate blurriness of each figure .

Often, the category of artistic estrangement- so characteristic of post modernity-becomes with dialectics with the emotional approximation, making the absorption of the model in an ambiguous land, in a ground zero, where anything can happen.

If we observe the pastel painting The tedium, which usually is the self of the portrait has been fanned by the distance not from you but from her, that third person present in a relaxed and indifferent materialization without her being, however, hard and impermeable, pure physical object, through the subtleties of the line and tones that give the skin tremor within the static of the posture and extends to the humanized premises where the woman lies.

Her blank look of it is demonstrative sign of the insignificance into which has fallen the world of the female in boredom, it is the Nihilism of the environment, when everything becomes flat and the spirit is immersed in the one-dimensional. And take that look, in comparison with the body sitting on the furniture, in all evidence and fullness, absent of dynamism and psychic stimulus. Tedium possesses and rejects any hint of spiritual liveliness and interest- not even for herself- for the world.

She is only there to be painted. Otherness is an abyss of personal communication at such corporal consistency annoyed of the long hours of posing, when only the flesh remains as testimony, and, as Mallarme said, the flesh is sad. There is eroticism in The Story of Venus, despite these deformed bodies and the absence of slender sizes and the beautiful heat of youth. Eros is a god and a two faces concept, active and passive: tension of love and the stress of the one that is kind or loved. Or, in other words, erotic is the one who loves and also the object of making love. And several eroticisms appear in Barboza’s iconography through feminine archetypes. Ancient psycho-cosmic concentrations and constellations fixed in their images and their corresponding environments of situations, able to influence, along history, on the human beings, individually and collectively, according to the person and his times.

Aphrodite or Venus appears in Barboza’s imagery, sometimes in his mythical semantic solitude he brought to everyday history, but often contaminated by the archetype of Hecate, the terrible goddess of depths and night, with looks, as occurs in La Madame, capable of annihilating, in the past and present, the virtue of the unsuspecting and tempted man, eroticized by that erect female body, versed in tricks learned in a hard past of struggle with angry life.

Yes there is Eros, and none of these oils and pastels are less venus-erotic that works as well known as Venus at the mirror, Susanna and the Elders, and Susanna in the bath, by Rubens, or to find closer paragons, the woman lying in Leda and the Swan, by Michelena. On the other hand, that Barboza tries and finds the form and archetypal rhythm; it does not mean that he idealizes according to the naturalistic cannons. His fertile dependence with expressionism of Kokotschka frees him from such danger and such conventions. As a postmodern artist, Barboza participates in emphasis of interpretation that does not expect to focus on the beautiful and the pleasant, and thus the tracings of not a few modern painters of the female nude, such as Suzanne Valadon, Leon Bonhomme, Bonnard, Pascin , Marquet, Derain, without forgetting to mention a few icons of Matisse and Degas himself.

I have already mentioned like in some paintings, Venus appears with the contamination of Hecate, the dark and sinister part, man-eating, destructive and self-destructive, as in The Madame and in Stalking Woman, archetype both opposite and adjacent to Venus, but most of the time the presence of Aphrodite is autonomous, as in The Birth of Venus.

Here there is flesh in initial elasticity, of a woman who opens to the world and inaugurates it, proud of herself. She is about to get up from a sofa, in her birth into the environment of a premise where tectonics dominates and she gives herself an original meaning in that outbreak of the first movement and the tension towards the front of it. She is not born in the sea but in a room, in the contemporary sofa-bed. Something similar happens in the purity of Intimate Reflection, where Barboza’s lexicon permeates the whole surface and unfolds with amazement before this woman backwards whose unfathomable nature can only be apprehended with the help of the mirror, and that expands beyond the object-based limits, leaving men, the spectators, the game or the futility of establishing measures, divisions, coordinates, while she, the Venus woman, from her intimate world, nourishes the universe with her radiant dual presence: her back and the reflection, of that face that gives herself to us just in a moment, in a blink.

The body, sometimes, does not seem "the container of the soul" as the remains of it, in any case, lay scattered in bodily characteristics – according to the old saying that in man the soul is in the head, while in the woman it is throughout the body. The same happens with the large oil painting The Huntress, of excellent composition and better color, where the archetype of Venus stretches and gets ready to attract the prey, catch and devour it in the bonds of a love as intense as fleeting. It could have the Biblical legend, rescued by Baudelaire: quem quorem devoret, looking for someone to devour. This work reminds us that while Barboza masters the pastel, it is equally difficult with oil, using all its virtues, including glazes and textures.

Perhaps the most classic of the paintings in this exhibition would be The softness, where there in a kind of pleasant stupor lies Aphrodite enjoying only her body lying between reds and blues: pleasure of pleasures, of encouragement and above all of the matter, of the flesh, in a silent moment of life, in a precedent softness and delight of becoming. She is a woman in solace of her own anatomy.

With these and many other aesthetic charms, Diego Barboza gives us his gifts as a painter of race, his acting talent of art and his anthropological sense to the issue of nudity which, in our art history, had not been treated with so much quality after Reveron and Marcos Castillo.

Caracas, Venezuela
April, 1999