Carlos Betancourt Marcando Territorios

otro de la maleta, este s uno de mis favoritos...

Marcando Territorios con Carlos Betancourt
Pedro Velez

Brazen bodies with black charcoal, ink, leaf, and poetry, and otherwise
ordinary earthly materials are a few of the tools Carlos Betancourt
uses in the process of metaphorically tatooing restless models.
These markings are presented in monumental banners in which the artist
documents his fixartion with the symbols of the Pre-Colonial Taino
culture from the Caribbean and the contemporary world of
advertising. At first glance both wolds mingle and flirt in the
surface of the glossy banners but closser inspection reveals a clash of
opposites, a forceful union of the irreverence associated with the
advertising and the humble grace of ancestral symbols.

Betancout's existential tantrums are channeled through a hybrid text he
writes and draws obsessively on the human body. Although it has
the form, feel and rhythm of poetry, the organic text functions as the
documentaiton of an action- a sadist gesture or intimate argument that
the viewer will never be able to fully read or understand but only
experience. Such is the cas in "Los Iluminados" 2003 ( from
Interventions in Wynwood I), where a crestfallen brunette stands
unclothed, completely covered in black scribbles but for her left hand
whcih has been rubbed with blue dust. In company of the model are
3 sarcastic looking and odd Christmas adornments, illuminated from
their hollow insides, whose attire and posture resemble choirboys.

Another photo in the series has a woman, looking tired and lonesome,
sitting still on a wooden bench and staring at the infinite while
listening to the muted singing statues. As part of the scribbles
that cover her pale leg one can read: "Comandante Guevara".
Not much of El Che is meant as a political reference but as conscious,
melancholic effort to trace his genealogical tree that spans from
Puerto Rico to Cuba and Miami. By tracing his roots and his history
Betancourt makes a mark, or pees his territory as dogs so, leaving the
scent of his cultural backgorund, his experience, taste and self.

Violence in product placement and the assault of the senses by excess
in visuals are tactics that Betancourt uses to perfection, not only in
the epic scope of his work and quality in the image but in the
subordination of his models, as seen in the series "Coupon Key, Robert
Miller 2003, (Bob's Storm). Here, a male model lays face down on
a dirty sidewalk, in a pose reminiscent of Ana Mendieta's rape
incident; the male model seems to have been submitted to
irreverent, almost sadomachoist scribbling and styling of Betancourt.

While the artist dresses his models, willing or not, in his signature
style, other photo series have him as the subject. Example is
"Untitled", 2003-04( next to natural Semi, from the Vieques and Rincon
Series), where the artist lays bare on top of a waterfall, naked but
for dirty tennis shoes to which the gaze is drawn. The rapture of the
gaze by such ordinary object amidst the pure environment sends signals
to the viewwer that point to a campy and eerie reading of the
piece. Here the artist performs the role of afflicted
contemporary cult leader, shaman, leper, messiah or new age exorcist in
waiting. Just like the members of the "New Millennium Cult," that
so in famously awaited the Second Coming of the Christ in black
uniforms and Nike shoes.

Dirty and obsessive, Betancourt's colonization of his identity and that
of others, sets Betancourt apart form the cliched Latino aesthetic
based on the glorification of the body and its relationship to the
natuire and self. Instead, and more like Cindy Sherman, Vito
Acconci and Vanessa Beecroft, Betancourt glorifies himself as a product
and as a signature.