Nestled somewhere between West Hollywood and Hancock Park is the Merry Karnowsky Gallery. Some well known artists are represented by this gallery including: Camille Rose Garcia, Mis Van, Shepard Fairey, Jeff Koegel, and Chilean painter, Victor Castillo. The latter’s current solo exhibit, Under Heavy Measures, is on view until March 2nd. This previous Saturday at the opening reception, I had the opportunity to meet the artist. My reason went beyond a simple acknowledgment of appreciation since I am using one of Victor’s paintings for the front cover of my forthcoming novel, A Grave Situation, out this summer. For the past few months I had been working with his publicist to secure rights and now that it was finalized, we were mutually interested in meeting one another.
In 1999, I came across a painting, A Grave Situation, by Chilean painter, Roberto Matta. The form, function, and surrealist blueprint of the painting reveals his training as an architect, which I was utterly fascinated by. It made me feel as if I was crucified in a classroom, and numerous thoughts of the horrors of a school environment were revisited. I immediatley got a ticket to Chicago to view it in person at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, but it was on loan. Not terribly crushed, but it influenced me to learn about Chilean culture, art, and history, which eventually I ended up living there and drawing inspiration from the political, social, and cultural landscape to write a novel. The title pays homage to Roberto Matta, and while searching for contemporary Chilean artists I stumbled across Victor Castillo, who was living in my city of Los Angeles.
Victor Castillo was born in Santiago in 1973, the year of the coup. He experienced first-hand oppression of living in a military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet, who murdered, dissapeared, tortured, and imprisoned left-wing thinkers and liberals. Everyone lived in constant fear. Victor describes his childhood as parallel to George Orwell’s novel, 1984, with the book and artwork burning, conspiracies, and violence, as a reaction to anything authorities considered Marxist. You can see a lot of subliminal political messages in his work, and for that reason I chose to pursue his artwork as a reflection of my book. Constant in Victor’s themes are: blindness, conspiracy, lies, disillusionment, and paranoia, and he has stated that although our world is a magnificent place to live, our social and political systems are essentially corrupt and perverse. I couldn’t agree with you more…Victor.