Cantos de Chile (Por Allende)
Wolfe’s “Cantos” were painted in response to the state terrorism of Pinochet’s Chilean dictatorship. A U.S.-backed coup in 1973 had caused the death of the democratically elected President, Salvatore Allende, and brought Pinochet to power. Pinochet’s right-wing dictatorship killed thousands of opponents and imprisoned and tortured tens if not hundreds of thousands.(1)
As with all of his political work, Wolfe was directing his opposition toward his own government, and his audience was the American public. He despised the U.S. policy of covert terrorist involvement in Central and South America, and the teaching of techniques for torture and political control at the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia, the United States.
This series of five canvases relates not to the oppression or violence experienced at that time by the Chilean people, as in the vein of Motherwell’s “Elegy for the Spanish Republic” series; rather it expresses a sympathy with the vitality of Chilean culture and with the people ’s will for freedom. Thus the canvases consist of expansive, brilliant fields of yellow and untethered geometric shapes in primary colors.
The series could, in a limited sense, be compared to Stella’s “Polish Village” series in that, for both artists, the inspiration was to celebrate a threatened (or in Stella’s case destroyed) culture, rather than to protest against the threat directly. (2)
1. “Many human rights organizations say more than 200,000 were arrested and tortured.” Wikipedia.org
2. The Legacy Project. legacy-project.org/