Carolyn Castaño debuts with her colorful cactus-flecked geometry


Ventanas (Desert) by Carolyn Castaño
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 30"x24" ($1200) | 40"x30" ($2400)

We see you winter woes, and we raise you Carolyn Castaño’s colorful, geometric, cactus and succulent stacked debut edition: Ventanas (Desert). Castaño’s fluorescent colors, pseudo-tropical tinges, and exuberant juxtapositions make any day infinitely better, and are all the more necessary when the sun sets early and a parka has worked its way into your day-to-day. The LA-born artist mines inspiration in part from her SoCal setting and Colombian ancestry, tapping into sources as varied as the 1980’s Los Angeles club scene, traditional textiles of the Americas, landscape painting, 19th century botanical illustrations, cartography, modernist architecture, and more. In Ventanas (Desert), that all comes together into one bright, blissed-out tableau.

The first career survey of Castaño’s work opened this past fall at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery, highlighting the breadth and vivacity of her art over the last fifteen years. In particular, the exhibition honed in on Castaño's continuing study of identity, gender and womanhood. One project of note: while an artist-in-residence in Medellin, Colombia in 2015, she explored the social conditions shouldered by the local women, working with a nonprofit to conduct workshops with these survivors and later rendering their likeness in portraits modeled after Latin American female protagonists.

While she’s fluent in a myriad of media (drawing, mural work, and video among them), Castaño's paintings especially piqued our interest for their irrepressible, idiosyncratic energy. The artist’s Ventanas (Spanish for “windows”) series from which today’s edition was plucked was originally a site-specific installation at the Los Angeles airport. In these works, sharp, graphic shapes map out the visual plane into fragmented spaces. There’s a prismatic effect, as if looking through multiple windows, peering in (or out) on disparate—yet symphonically symbiotic—scenes. It’s Castaño's nod to the experience of gazing out an airplane window at the transforming geography below, or even inward, at what she describes as “the carefully orchestrated universe of form, color and logotype to be found within the aircraft”.

In Ventanas (Desert), various bold, geometric shapes enthusiastically encounter a lush desert landscape. The nature moment occupies a neat slice of the overall image, separated from the graphic, saturated abstractions by slim white borders that play peacekeeper throughout the frame. Castaño's crisp lines, poppy patterns and solid-color blocks contrast her soft, organic, blended brush work in the desert vista—a testament to her gift for mixing different techniques into a harmonious whole.

That's really why we gravitated toward this piece in particular: it sings. Offbeat, upbeat, energizing and enigmatic. You just have to look to listen.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200

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