ética y estética is an exhibition of new paintings at Parroquia Santa Barbara, a local church in the small factory town of La Paila, Colombia, where I was born and have been quarantined for months.
When the lockdown took hold, I converted my warehouse studio into a distribution center to supply food to the village, cooperating with the local church to share essential goods. Though I’ve long been skeptical of organized religion and its oppressive history, I recognize how crucial its parishes can be to many communities, including the residents of La Paila.
I think of these new paintings as a manifestation of where I find myself now. They represent the anxiety of the current crisis.
They incorporate the names of foodstuffs, such as “chorizo,” “maiz,” and “carne,” terms that have not featured in my work since my earliest paintings. I used these words to symbolize the act of coming together in celebration. In these recent paintings, the phrases are partially or totally obliterated—a gesture that reflects the precariousness of some of life’s most basic necessities at this moment.
The title ética y estética comes from a 2016 performance that also took place in La Paila. Working with neighbors and friends within the community, we painted placards and marched with them to the statue of Hernando Caicedo (1890—1966). Caicedo founded the Colombina candy factory, which to this day employs many of the residents of the village.
The performance was deliberately ambiguous, part parade and part protest; it celebrated the industry that brought prosperity to my hometown yet simultaneously reminded us how much of the local population, across many generations, has been condemned to low-paying work in service of a powerful employer.
Oscar Murillo: ética y estética
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