Francesco Lo Castro – Forging Off-Beat Icons

by Shana Beth MasonPosted on

Miami resident fine artist Francesco Lo Castro has emerged from the studio with a new body of work that promises to razzle dazzle viewer’s senses. Premiering at Butter Gallery on Thursday, November 11, 2010, Lo Castro brings a selection of new paintings and related art photos to the gallery’s walls. Join us as Hi Fructose gets an exclusive look at the Florida artist’s thoughts and works via the hand of Shana Beth Mason, M.A., University of Glasgow (Christie’s Education London).

“The application of heroic portraiture, in the pursuit of elevating and mythologizing its subjects beyond their earthly qualities and achievements, has been exercised even before the Grecian urn, the Roman marble sculpture and the Chinese terracotta warrior (as exemplars). But with the veneration of Royal Academy founder Sir Joshua Reynolds, the French hero Jacques-Louis David, and Thomas Gainsborough, portraiture had developed into a device where ‘the genres of portrayal became more strictly and hierarchically categorized, with a ‘more permanent’ form of dress or with one that evoked an earlier period in a desirable and accessible way, placed above ‘temporary fashion.’ In their efforts, these artists instituted a tradition of portraiture ‘belonging’ to the aristocracy where their subjects claim and reclaim iconic stature both in physical grandeur and posture. In the realm of modern and contemporary art, these qualities have manifested under the veil of celebrity and pop cultural recognition within painting, photography and multimedia installation. Remarkably, Miami-based visual artist Francesco Lo Castro has engaged not the lofty faces of film stars and political giants into his work, but those who have shifted the tectonic plates of the sophisticated urban underground of his home city. His latest, self-titled solo exhibition has brought his technical prowess to the forefront, without compromising the inherent treachery of the double-reproduced image (with the first stage photographing his subject and the second lifting the image onto canvas).”

“The last forty years of contemporary art has seen significant changes to the context of portraiture. Warhol froze the serene faces of Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong into metaphoric ‘death masks’; the assassin of these characters was not violence or time, but the persistence of the meaningless, bloated image in modern culture. ‘The screened image, reproduced whole, has the character of an involuntary imprint. It is a memorial in the sense of resembling memory: powerfully selective, sometimes elusive, sometimes vividly present, always open to embellishment as well as loss. ‘ Chuck Close revealed the ironic triumph of the leviathan portrait executed by one whose physical impairment would otherwise render him a societal mockery. Elizabeth Peyton concentrated a fierce personal loyalty in her candid portraits as a teenage girl would to her idol; the frankness of her images allow her figures to return to the realm of unblemished adoration and contemplation. Lo Castro brings elements of all of these practices into dialogue with his renderings of instrumental writers, performance artists, designers and punk-culture socialites. Cool-toned colors evoke the antique daguerreotype (pinks for highlights, green for shadows) as he simultaneously elevates and humbles his characters. The particular moments of capture for Lo Castro emulate the varying sequences of a musical composition; rather than producing the ‘melody’ of a structured pose, Lo Castro punctuates the off-beat ‘harmony’ of his subjects’ movements within the studio, vacillating between smiles, smirks and sultry looks. When completed, a unique snapshot surfaces like something crossed between a goth-culture photo album and the reverent halls of an Edwardian estate. The grandiose size of the canvases allow each figure to appear as if a sculptural relief, with the neutral backgrounds pulsing with off-white energy and the figure itself almost buzzing with a supernatural glow. Lo Castro notes that each figure is idealized in their corporeal form, but their individual mysteries and uncertainties are revealed through expression and gesture. The technical execution of the paintings bears the visible brushstrokes of the artist’s hand, but still manages to place sole focus on the subject rather than the artist as creator.”

“Francesco Lo Castro was born in 1976 in Catania, Italy. As a child, his surroundings were culturally charged by being raised in West Germany, eventually moving to South Florida as a teenager. Lo Castro soon after submerged himself in the punk underground movement in Miami, aligning himself with young artists and professionals laying just below the surface of the steadily maturing contemporary art mainstream. Before devoting his creative energies solely to his practice as a visual artist, Lo Castro pushed curatorial efforts for the counter-culture sect, acting as a bridge between artists in New York, Los Angeles and Miami collectively. Notable projects include the 2006 Art Center/South Florida ‘We’ll Make A Lover Of You’ and ‘Life Size’, a group exhibition for Scion in Culver City, California earlier that year. Lo Castro founded the Gen Art VANGUARD Art Fair in 2008, merging with Aqua Art Fair in 2009. Lo Castro is now represented on the full roster for the Butter Gallery in the Wynwood Arts District in Miami.”

“Francesco Lo Castro is determined to reinvigorate contemporary portraiture and painting for a different kind of generation; one that leans towards the appreciation of youthful potential versus public stature, but still achieves the physical stature that often precedes the portrayals of those with mainstream influence. Lo Castro’s practice is in constant evolution, with his technical capabilities flourishing and his undiscovered stream of distinctive characters just beneath the sizzling shell of Miami’s internationally recognized visual arts body. The hierarchy of this amorphous circle can only be recognized externally by the breach of its own unspoken rules. It is possible to, one day, regard Lo Castro’s renderings as off-beat icons, finding notoriety only in the eyes of those shaping the landscape of Miami as a global arts foundry. With the arrival of this solo effort from Lo Castro, he appears to be wielding the proverbial hammer.”

-Shana Beth Mason
M.A., University of Glasgow (Christie’s Education London)
October 2010
Carrier, David and Roskill, Mark. Truth and Falsehood in Visual Images. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1983. pp. 49
Crow, Thomas. ‘Saturday Disasters: Trace and Reference in Early Warhol’. Modern Art in the Common Culture. Yale University Press, New Haven. 1998. pp. 53-54
Fields, Suzanne. “Dumbing Down” Our Icons’. The Washington Times. News World Communications/The Gale Group, September 8, 1997. pp. 21.

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 11, 2010
Exhibition runs through Art Basel Miami week.

Butter Gallery
2303 NW 2nd Avenue
Wynwood Arts District, Miami, FL 33127

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