Pope Shot, Obama Crucified at BBG
TORONTO, Jan. 20 /CNW/ - 'Persona Non Grata - The Veil of History' opens at the Bezpala Brown Gallery on February 5th. Peter Alexander Por, a Toronto artist of Hungarian decent, tells the story of oppression, pain, suffering, persecution and death across 30 paintings and four sculptures. His first task was to refine the list of despots to be included in the infamous portraits - for there are far more than 30 to choose from - some expected, some perhaps not. It is a coincidence but apt that news comes from Ireland of a Vatican letter instructing Irish Archbishops to abandon their zero tolerance policy against suspected priests/pedophiles in favour of Canon Law administration. Pope Benedict XVI's portrait is riddled with bullet holes, a less than subtle expression of the hurt and anger directed at a Pontiff and an institution that has abandoned its flock, choosing to focus on dogma while its subjects suffer and, in many instances, die from its archaic policies. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, is portrayed as laden with a ball and chain, unable to break out of the strictures that reinforce wrongdoing under the guise of spirituality.
The United States of America has not escaped Por's scalpel. The vindictive, divisive and distorted hyperbole that has polarized American discourse together with the avenues afforded corporate America and lobbyists to forge Government policy have left President Obama a victim, crucified in the wake of special and distorted interests. Por's props - a pacifier and his image of Obama on the cross shown here convey a somewhat different "Audacity of Hope" than that parlayed through Obama's writings.
While Obama is the victim, Bush is a perpetrator. As with all Por's executors, Bush's face is but a white sketch covered with grid lines to bring the viewer to focus on the eyes of the villain while taking note of the estimated death toll etched numerically over his upper chest from a war initiated on a fiction.
Judy Stoffman is one of a few art critics who were given the privilege to preview what was then Por's work in progress. Stoffman noted, "It is not easy to look at these pictures. The viewer's instinct is to turn away. Portraiture is an aristocratic privilege. The image cannot help ennoble the subject. Throughout centuries of Western art, it was the great and the good and of course, the rich, who had their portraits painted. It is a sort of honour to have an artist look closely at one's face and try to discern the character therein. Why would an artist waste his talent and attention on ignoble and depraved figures?"
She continues, "Peter Por has lived through dark times. Born before the end of World War II in Hungary, when Hitler and Stalin were still ripping up Europe, he is a contemporary of many of his subjects. They have shadowed his life. Brought up as a Catholic, he is acutely sensitive to the great struggle between good and evil in the world. The existence of cruelty and murder offends him personally and he cannot forget it. It is as though he lacks the protective skin that most people have developed to be able to function."
The steely eyes of these evil masterminds together with the sheer numbers their actions affected render this Exhibition thought provoking and solemn - from the genocide of Rwanda to the killing fields of Cambodia to the decades of Stalinism, Por looks back to look forward. Join us for this solemn journey.
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