George Febres








19 x 24 cm


Color drawing on paper

Credits: The Historic New Orleans Collection. George Febres Louisiana Art Collection. Gift of Dr. Jerah Johnson, 1996.78.1.20.

The exploration of the banana theme in the work of George Febres, an artist of Ecuadorian origin living in New Orleans, USA, began in 1980 with a photograph of a cactus, a cucumber, and a banana—each inside the skin of a banana—entitled Three Friends, in allusion to the Walt Disney film devised under the Good Neighbor Policy promoted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and led by Nelson Rockefeller to develop trade relations between the United States and Latin America. Febres’ most important monographic exhibition, Totally Bananas, organized by the Stil-Zinsel Gallery in 1992, was entirely devoted to his research on the place of the banana in visual culture. For this show, Febres presented a series of color drawings in which he manipulated iconic works from the European pictorial tradition to replace the characters with bananas. With Tango, Febres creates a version of Henri Matisse’s Dance with the dancers replaced by bananas and cacti, plants associated with the Latin American landscape. He also shuns the European tradition in the work’s title, a nod to Argentinian music. This project also includes his well-known portrait of Andy Warhol emerging from a banana peel, and variations on Francisco de Goya’s The Naked Maja, Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, among others, in which the main characters have been replaced by bananas, and puns and humor propose reflections on the stereotypical construction of Latin American culture in Europe and the United States. Such was Febres’ fixation with the banana that, shortly before his death in 1996, he curated The First New Orleans Banana Festival. A year earlier, in 1995, the well-known New Orleans portrait artist Judy Cooper portrayed Febres in banana-printed clothing, amid banana leaves, and under a banana-shaped lamp.