Spanish-born, New York-based artist Pedro Barbeito's exhibition at The Aldrich presents a series of work ranging from 2005 to the present. The paintings in Pop Violence are based on images of war drawn from American entertainment and news media. For Barbeito, these works address the formative role of violence in contemporary life, from a political ethos driven by "terror" and deception to the aesthetics of visual assault prevailing in popular culture. Drawing upon the anxieties of an age when we are afforded, primarily through the Internet, unprecedented visual access to the violence of war and political strife (the conflict in Iraq and the Abu Ghraib images of torture, for example), these canvases materialize through painting the ubiquitous command found in most NYC transportation hubs: "If you see something, say something."
"Painting, since the beginning of history, has been the representation of the world through pictures," explains Barbeito, "and as such, my paintings represent our current world, exploring the relationship between digital imaging, culture at large, and the history of painting." His images are particularly informed by the artist's interest in the traditions of popularized depictions of violence, from early superhero comics (Fighting Yank/Captain America/Battle Brady), to video game imagery (Gears of War/Halo 3), to the portrayal of violence and jingoism in movies and on television. These are all powerful popular forms that testify to the workings of violence in America, yet do so in often beautiful and visually inventive ways. The layering of images, paired with the physicality of the paint application on the canvas, typifies the presentation of violence in our contemporary era, speaking to the cacophony of voices in communications media overloaded by often-contradictory information: flag waving, horror, and glamour.