Tony de los Reyes, George Washington Cannibalized, 2009, ink and oil on linen, 35″ x 28″
This piece by Tony de los Reyes (at Howard House) captures a heart-sacking wallup of American mythology. In the U.S., George Washington’s head has become an omnipresent, iconic object that begs to be overlooked. In George Washington Cannibalized, he is alive with historical weight, and asking to be seen.
The black stains hiding the face have a disarming effect, warning the viewer that this isn’t the Santa Claus of American history we’ve all been taught to believe in. With careful, simple white lines drawn on Washington’s face, De los Reyes has evoked the power and weight of generations of spilled blood, annihilated cultures, broken promises, irrational fears, and the stories we’re all taught in history class.
What makes this painting brilliant is that De los Reyes has said all of this, and more, with a whisper. As is often the case with “political” art, it is the whisper that is heard the loudest.