On Venus, 1975
From the series Space (Homage to Robert McCall)
Oil on canvas, 35 ½ x 39 3/8 in. (90 x 100 cm)
Here U.S. astronauts posing alongside their ship on the surface of the moon are flanked by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Venus Anadyomène (1848). The astronauts derive from a painting by Robert McCall, a well-known illustrator whose works are featured in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Erró’s proposal that the goddess of love might accompany men into space—or that they might encounter her there—seems both a bawdy joke and a piercing insight into the utopian (and still unresolved) aspirations propelling space exploration. As in many of Erró’s works, On Venus’s smooth finish belies its turbulent Cold War politics.