Jonathan Levine Projects presents We Were All To Be Kings, a solo exhibition by Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based artist Victor Castillo, featuring a bold new series of big and small paintings on canvas and paper inspired by vintage American animations.
In a quadtych installation of wall-sized paintings, Castillo seamlessly appropriates Technicolor imagery and characters from the classic animation studios Van Beuren and Walt Disney, notably from the Silly Symphony series produced in the 1930s. Through a process of collaging collected images, mixing backgrounds and comic characters to create new compositions and situations, Castillo reconstructs the given narratives like a puzzle, to formulate his distinctive style of storytelling with a punch line.
The artist describes the painting titled We Were All To Be Kings: a king eating alone … a table with a feast … all around animals watching; the animals are angry because they have realized that they are food for slaughter. In each of the large paintings, Castillo notes that the protagonists are stealing from each other. Evoking George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it is class war between rich and poor and a criticism of capitalism that Castillo’s vibrant painting ultimately portrays.
Opposite from the multilayered acrylic paintings in the gallery, a series of fifteen small works made of gouache on found paper brings us to another delightful dimension and time. Painted on vintage book reproductions of popular Currier & Ives prints chronicling America in the nineteenth century, Castillo adds to and thus changes the meaning of each scene with an ongoing theme of resistance. “The subjects are fighting back,” he says.
The title of the exhibition is also a reference to Castillo’s roots. In “We Were All To Be Queens,” Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral follows the dreams and hopes of childhood as they are thwarted and destroyed by the realities of adult life. Similarly, Castillo follows dreams of riches to a surprising end in We Were All To Be Kings, offering medieval fables and a humorous reflection about the current state of society.
A multicultural perspective informs Castillo’s vision as an artist from Latin America: “I grew up with a fascination with American pop culture. In the Disney productions that arrived in Chile, you would see Uncle Scrooge traveling the world in search of wealth; they would arrive in a place with lots of gold, and he and his nephews would take it and be happy. I feel with the right to appropriate because I grew up with all this in my face. My paintings come from dreams.”
We Were All To Be Kings is Victor Castillo’s second solo exhibition with Jonathan Levine following The Jungle in 2012. The psychedelic new series is a departure from previous work depicting children in spooky chiaroscuro settings.