L. Kent Wolgamott: In ‘Dicotomias,’ Francisco Souto turns to colored pencil and symbolism

A dead bird, beautifully rendered in colored pencil, lies in the center of the white paper, surrounded by a triangle of exquisitely drawn flies. A fourth fly points away from the bird, as do the three in the triangle.

The insects are, unnaturally, ignoring the carcass. That’s because they’re symbols in Francisco Souto’s drawing, as is the bird.

The flies represent the Venezuelan government, embodying by looking away, its willful neglect of the people, who are enduring years of unrest and economic distress.

The bird comes via Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, who has used an imaginary bird to stand in for his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in his speeches.

“He’d say, ‘I have a little bird that’s Chavez’s spirit right here; let me listen to him,’” Souto said. “You can’t be playing with people like that. I just wanted that little bird to be dead.”

Souto’s powerful “Little Bird” resonates for viewers even without knowledge of its symbolism. And with that knowledge, it brings to mind highly symbolic 17th- and 18th-century European paintings.

It is the pivotal piece in “Dicotomias,” Souto’s ongoing exhibition at Kiechel Fine Art.

“Dicotomias” is a follow-up to his 2016 exhibition “A Memory in Peril,” which looked at the social and cultural upheaval in Souto’s homeland through highly detailed black-and-white drawings of protesters, police, and women on the street, as well as of kids playing and, poignantly, sharing the only scrap of bread they have to eat.

The first drawings of the 21 in the new exhibition make a direct connection with the previous show — two boys sitting with a board playing “Chess” and “Four Girls” looking straight ahead.

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