Although today transformed into a modern metropolis--the second largest city in Colombia--Medellín, the birthplace of Fernando Botero, still retains aspects of its colonial architectural past. And, perhaps nowhere is the city's bygone era of colorful, cobblestone streets and quaint terracotta-roofed houses more present then in the work of its most famous son. And while one can certainly speculate that The Street is indeed a nostalgic tribute to the artist's hometown, it is more likely that here as elsewhere Botero takes inspiration from his childhood spent in Medellín as a point of departure to recreate a typical sleepy, mid-century Latin American town complete with crowded narrow streets populated by a now familiar coterie of popular types--priests, prostitutes, businessmen, children, and mothers. And here as elsewhere, the characters are depicted in the artist's signature style of rotund figures rendered with an almost imperceptible brushwork and overall flatness that neutralizes his subjects and eternally suspends them within the fissures of reality and pictorial illusionism.
It is in this liminal space that we discover Botero's familiar neighbors as they casually encounter each other along the tight, bustling street stopping briefly only to greet each other with a tip of a hat, or merely exchange a glance as they make their way to their final destination. A woman peers from a window above street level metaphorically marking the limits between her domestic space and the very public one below. The characters represent a diverse group across disparate classes, professions, and interests, yet the street as in most urban centers, functions as a democratizing force that for a fleeting moment unites them in this most public sphere and erodes their social differences.
Central to the composition is not only Botero's recurring subject of the family--albeit here defined as an extended community rather than the traditional unit--but of particular resonance is the image of the woman perhaps on her way to the local market or en route to drop her son off at school, or some other daily ritual. Elegantly, yet coquettishly attired, she confidently strides along the street dominating the pictorial space and the attention of the all-male passersby. Rendered from behind, she seemingly beckons us to join her as she navigates the busy street and asserts her role as "matriarch" of this extended family. Women have long occupied a central place in Botero's work, whether depicted alone or in a group they are not simply the center of attention or objects to be gazed upon, but rather the stalwarts of tradition and of deep familial bonds and as such the lifeblood of any community.