BY ISABEL ABELE | WRITTEN FOR THE ARTIST'S SOLO SHOW AT HELIUMCOWBOY ARTSPACE IN DEC, 2009
Although Victor Castillo is a master of many trades– murals are as familiar to him as installation work and drawings – he mainly focuses on paintings. In his canvases, fragments of the everyday life, cartoons and vintage comics, but also of religious and political iconography are woven together into unsettling narrations characterized by the surreal. Thus, Castillo’s art is in the tradition of American pop-surrealism, a movement that is commonly referred to as lowbrow. Rooted in the 70ies, this art movement attracts more and more the attention of today’s art institutions as the popularity of artists like Manuel Ocampo, Mark Ryden or Gary Baseman increases.
But Castillo also draws inspiration from artists like Goya and Velázquez. By now, their works have become an important base for his narrations, as they often unfold in partly baroque, partly romantic landscapes. Yet, Castillo’s innocent idyllic dream worlds are only pretense, as his narrations show children playing with toy weapons and wearing masks, redolent of horror movies. At second glance, the sweet puppet face turns into a grotesque grimace and the seemingly romantic countryside suffers from decay. Like a theatre stage it frames a frightening scenario of apocalyptic dimensions. Castillo’s paintings may also be discussed as „Anti-Idylls“ and therefore seen in the tradition of artists like Hieronymus Bosch, stating Paradise is lost and nothing more but illusion. In the very end however, Castillo’s art is reflecting today’s society in a remarkable way: a capitalistic society increasingly traumatized, giving up for a daily routine shaped by violence, decadence, and racism.
In his show, „Restless and Wild“ at heliumcowboy artspace in December 2009, Victor Castillo presented a remarkable range of work including a mural, ten works on paper and around twenty canvases. In these, Castillo presents atmospherically luminous landscapes evoking the images of idyllic postcards. Once again, the appearance is deceiving: The postcard idylls embrace a tragic-comic portrait of childlike cruelty. They uncover a wild, uncivilized side of human behaviour, with aspects of politics, sex and religion also playing a part.
Born 1973 in Santiago de Chile, Victor Castillo grew up in a conflict-riddled neighborhood during the dictatorship of Pinochet. His childhood was influenced by the politics and culture of the USA and Spain that has also affected his artistic process. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.