Photo courtesy of Victor Castillo Studio 2014
Some of the greatest artists that ever lived had an urgency to make a political, social, or cultural statement in their artwork as a civic duty to challenge the stagnant mind. Chilean-born, Victor Castillo, is one of those artists. Castillo's work is vibrant in color, rich in tone, exuberant in style, and most importantly loaded with political undertones. The deluge he usually walks us through is a cerebral explosion of irony and reality where the observer is coaxed into making an immediate connection with the bleak environment that persists around us. Moreover, Castillo's choice in titles, usually taken from song captions, pokes fun at pop culture in a playful way where recognition of such text engages you in a sense of familiarity where the medium is the message. From a broader perspective, Castillo's work is at least meticulous and constant.
However, Castillo's new exhibit, Pure Pleasure, is a presentation of departure. When you walk into the gallery and at once recognize the artist's imagery, you first notice the black and white tone rather than the colorful palate you have previously experienced. The way the paintings are lined up reflect a graphic novel or comic strip flush at eye-level. If you stand in the middle of the room, the large-scale mural stands as the centerpiece, metaphorically as the front cover, introduction, or prelude, accompanied by the narrative with plot points and finale. It is a new parallel, the beginning of a new cycle for the artist as a from of social protest against the advanced digital age that has saturated us beyond reprieve. For Castillo, the bold statement is a gesture of liberty, freedom, and resilience.
In the Social Contract, Rousseau wrote, "Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." This statement can be applied to all levels of civil society, including the art world, where there is a strong expectation for constancy. As Castillo explores the numerous layers of his creativity without seeking permission or vindication, we follow him on a trajectory where his discourse is manifested in challenging the norm. From a simple vantage point, this gesture allows for more output because of the ease of black and white imagery. Often we get stuck in an expectation for artists to do work that is recognizable without any concern for their personal growth and development because we demand sameness, but this new departure, which is reminiscent of the comics of the Situationists Internationale, shows the degradation and cheapening of human life through the idea of the absurd. The climax of the exhibit is the A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste piece that depicts the cheapening of life taken over by consumerism and material excess. If you respect, appreciate, and believe in a specific artist, than you can trust their deviance as a statement of volition. We trust you Victor, and your work speaks volumes that leaves us flummoxed for days.
You can view the exhibit at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery until February 22nd.