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Last Chance: Art Inspired by the Drug Wars in the Echo Park Patch

The Echo Park Patch gives El jardin Femenil a nice plug. Now go see it. Show closes April 7th, 2012 click here for original.

The Echo Park Patch
Last Chance: Art Inspired by the Drug Wars

By Anthea Raymond

April 2, 2012

Colombian-American aritst Carolyln Castano grew up in Historic Filipinotown and lives in Solano Canyon today. Her latest show "El Jardin Femenil Y Otros Ocasos" closes April 7 at the Walter Macial Gallery.

Decorated Garden Head (Nery)Decorated Garden Head (Nery)

Solano Canyon-based painter and video artist Carolyn Castano has been at the cutting edge for a long while.

Her work was included in the controversial Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement, which originated at LACMA in 2008.

She's been a board member at Highland Park's Outpost for Contemporary Art, and, in 2010, organized a Soccer Tournament benefit integrating performance art and live music on the Vista Hermosa fields in Echo Park.

Castano's parents came to the U.S. from Colombia in 1962, and settled in Historic Filipinotown, where she grew up.

Lately, she's been thinking and creating a lot about narco-traffcking and how women, especially, are affected.

Her show El Jardin Femenil Y Otros Ocasos features paintings and videos on that theme, according to a press release:

The role of women in the male-dominated drug culture is performed in many guises as mules, money launderers, trophies and wives. Not coincidentally, many of these women are also beauty queens, models, actresses, or TV journalists. The show includes large format paintings of young female victims.

Castano also portrays a newscaster modeled after Maria Elena Salinas, a well-known Latina journalist, in a video created for the show.

El Jardin Femenil Y Otros Ocasos continues Saturday, April 7 at the Walter Macial Gallery 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd 90034.

Art review: Carolyn Castaño at Walter Maciel Gallery

El Jardin Femenil Y Otros Ocasos receives a wonderful review from Sharon Mizota of the LA Times. Click here.

LA Times

Culture Monster

Art Review: Carolyn Castaño at Walter Maciel Gallery

by Sharon Mizota

March 22, 2012

Narco Venus (Angie)Narco Venus (Angie)

Carolyn Castaño’s latest exhibition at Walter Maciel Gallery serves as an ambivalent memorial to female victims of the Latin American drug trade. Four large paintings, each named for a real woman, depict idealized nudes reclining in lush, glitter-strewn tropical landscapes. The women are equal parts art history and pin-up poster, but there’s something sinister about the large, Rousseau-like vegetation that surrounds them. Studded with skulls and other images of death, ominous swathes of pure black press in, giving the figures’ white skin an otherworldly glow.

Smaller paintings feature the severed heads of male drug lords — a seemingly vindictive symbolic act. While Castaño restores the women to life, she tosses the men’s heads in the long grass. Still, they too are encrusted with glitter and sparkly flowers. Perhaps they died much as they lived: astride an undercurrent of violence papered over with rhinestones.

The paintings are darkly beautiful, but the highlight of the show is a video featuring Castaño as a newscaster rattling off a litany of sound bites on the history and status of women in Latin America. Alternating seamlessly between English and Spanish — often in mid-sentence — the work pokes fun at the quick-cut, non sequitur nature of TV news while rattling the viewer’s linguistic and cognitive circuits. It undoes what we think we know about Latin American women, clearing a space, hopefully, for something more real and complex.

Art Review: 'COLA 2011: Individual Artist Fellowship' at Municipal Art Gallery

Narco Venus (Liliana Andrea)Narco Venus (Liliana Andrea)

Christopher Knight reviews the COLA Individual Artist Fellowship Award 2011. For online version click here

LA Times

Culture Monster

June 9, 2011

by Christopher Knight

The gallery housing Danial Nord's "State of the Art" sculpture at the Municipal Art Gallery is pitch-black. Until your eyes adjust, pretty much all a visitor sees is shards of bluish-white light flickering like broken glass on surrounding walls, as well as inside some unfathomable structure taking up most of the small room.

A vaguely militaristic audio-remix of the familiar "Mickey Mouse Club March" theme song, its rat-a-tat-tat snare drum echoing repetitiously (even relentlessly) inside the chamber, gives a clue as to what slowly comes into view. A 17-foot-long sculpture of Mickey lies on its side. The cartoon rodent, fabricated from cast-off television sets, recalls an armored vehicle.

The sleeping-or-dead pose is critical to the work's creepy success, as is the sheer volume of old TV sets from which the work is deftly cobbled together. Nord's video-sculpture wedges itself into an electronic zone somewhere between a numbed life and eternal death, between commercialized seductions of youthful play and the cast-off consumer culture that has long-since replaced the "idiot box" of the cathode-ray tube era with today's ubiquitous digital flat-screen. Mickey is dead; long live Mickey!

"State of the Art" (even the title blows a cold breeze) is video as sinister inevitability in our globalizing march. It's also a strong work in a strong exhibition -- "COLA 2011," the public presentation of works by artist-recipients in the most recent round of the city of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department's individual artist grants. Ten artists are in the show.

Ken Gonzalez Day's large ink-jet prints put photographs of figure and portrait sculptures by artists and anthropologists in confrontation and conversation -- a colonial American woman and a classical Venus, for example, opposite Japanese and Eskimo women. Similarities and differences are thrown into high relief, but it's the blank chasm between them (in this case, between cultural conceptions of East and West) that looms largest.

Carolyn Castaño, who is Colombian American, elaborates her eye-popping brand of extreme netherworld celebrity portraits with a series of brightly painted, glitter-encrusted, life-size reclining nudes that she calls "Narco Venuses," fictionalized tabloid girlfriends of drug lords here adorned with cascades of poppies, pot leaves and skulls. Heather Carson merges Dan Flavin's industrial-strength fluorescent tubes and lighting fixtures with Agnes Martin's painted pastel abstractions of horizontal color bars, forming an unlikely pairing for wall sculptures simultaneously ephemeral and muscular.

Amid paintings, a harpoon-sculpture and altered book texts, Tony de los Reyes flips a 31-star American flag, which dates to circa 1851. That's a year after California joined the Union, sea-to-shining-sea, and the year Herman Melville published "Moby-Dick," his epic sea-faring tale of obsession on nature's whiteness. The flag's symbolic colors are replaced by watery swirls of black and white, evoking a turbulent run-up to the Civil War.

Anna Boyiazis' documentary photographs of AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa compose lyrical images of love, loss and human fragility. As the pandemic's 30th anniversary arrives, the pictures also mark time.

Dont Rhine, working with a sound-art collective, orchestrated John Cage-like "listening tours" in which small groups were instructed to briefly visit a place without speaking, then report back on what they heard. There's not much to look at in the gallery; however, playing against a very loud society in which everyone clamors to be heard, a paean to the virtues of listening is worth, well, hearing.

Soo Kim makes a not-unrelated admonition about the value of seeing through a forest of visual clutter. Parts of her large landscape photographs have been neatly excised with a razor blade, mingling real and depicted shadows.

Less satisfactory are the skillfully drafted yet prosaic commercial icons -- Tony Tiger, Charlie Tuna, a Kool-Aid grin -- painted in tattoo-like markings by Mark Dean Veca. Their sense of rotting decay is held too much in check by pretty fields of flat, decorative colors. Those colors are said to have socially relevant sources, such as the mercury base of the vermilion in the Charlie Tuna work, but it's a stretch with no visual payoff.

And Yong Soon Min's room-size video installation projects images over vinyl letters on the floor, documenting email exchanges that often concern the difficulty of communication. Nearby, a split-screen video monitor plays fragments of what appear to be television soap operas. The context is far too obscure to hold interest, though, while the scale of the projection dilutes the whole.

Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 644-6269, through July 3. Closed Mon through Wed.
For the record, 7:57 a.m. June 12: An earlier version on this post incorrectly listed Municipal Art Gallery in the credits for all photos.

Review in the LA Times for It's Complicated at Walter Maciel Gallery.

Beauty Queen, Smuggler, Girlfriend (Laura Zuñiga): Acrylic, mixed-media on CanvasBeauty Queen, Smuggler, Girlfriend (Laura Zuñiga): Acrylic, mixed-media on Canvas

Review: Carolyn Castano at Walter Maciel Gallery
10:45 AM, April 17, 2009

In his cartoonish style, Colombian artist Fernando Botero once painted a picture of slain drug kingpin Pablo Escobar as an obese, rooftop-dancing gangster amid a hail of bullets — sort of “Fiddler on the Roof” for the degenerate set. He presented the brutal criminal, once listed by Forbes magazine among the world’s richest men, in his pseudo-Robin Hood guise, dangerous yet cuddly. I’ll take Carolyn Castaño’s version any day. Her new work at Walter Maciel Gallery shuns easy moralizing for the sheer strangeness of modern media celebrity.
Seven punchy portraits, each 5 by 4 feet, chronicle men and women associated with Colombia ’s drug-addled travails. Paired with Escobar is Virginia Vallejo, the television news anchor who, improbably, was also his mistress. Nearby is Laura Zuñiga, the Mexican beauty queen who last December lost her crown when she was arrested on an alleged cash-and-weapons-smuggling trip to South America . Rodrigo Echeverry, Ingrid Betancourt, Clara Rojas and others who have flashed across TV screens also make appearances.
Castaño renders each one as a two-dimensional line drawing in rudimentary black paint on a blank white ground. Something as mundane as a facial feature — the curve of a nose or the shape of an eye — is faithfully rendered. But likeness is swamped by the overwhelming sparkle of glitter-encrusted paint on hair and lips, showers of syncopated geometric patterns in bright, eye-dazzling colors and lush cascades of ornate, stylized flowers.
There’s a visual insanity to the blaring execution of this imagery that meshes perfectly with the craziness of the subjects’ outlandish tabloid stories. A kind of Extreme Celebrity Portraiture, Castaño’s gonzo pictures make weird sense of inscrutable lives.
-- Christopher Knight

Los Angeles Times
Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd. , Culver City , (310) 839-1840, through May 9. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Above: "Beauty Queen, Drug Moll, Girlfriend (Laura Zuniga)" (2009), acrylic, glitter and mixed media on canvas. Credit: Walter Maciel Gallery