It's hard not to notice the immediate influence of early American animation when looking over the jubilant paintings of Chilean-born artist Victor Castillo. The centerpiece of his new solo exhibition, We Were All To Be Kings, is a quadtych installation of wall-sized paintings that appropriate Technicolor imagery and characters from original animation studios like Van Beuren and Walt Disney. Much like animator and cartoonist Joan Cornella, Castillo creates his own eerie interpretation of the overtly idealized and optimistic aesthetic of 20th century middle class America. Castillo incorporates found images into his work, allowing him to reconstruct his own narrative from the framework of his sources. He creates entirely new scenes that infuse separate backgrounds and characters, most notably the cast of Disney's Silly Symphony cartoon series from the 1930s.
Living in Los Angeles having grown up in Chile, Castillo developed a multicultural perspective on American culture that has served as a driving influence for his paintings. In his conversation with the gallery, the artist notes that all the subjects in his paintings are stealing from each other. These still images of class warfare, à la George Orwell's Animal Farm, are the artist's own way of imparting his critique of modern capitalism. "I grew up with a fascination with American pop culture," writes Castillo. "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."
The title of the exhibition is a reference to a poem called "We Were All To Be Queens," by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. The poem is a lyrical explanation of how the breezy and naive dreams of our childhood ultimately squander in the face of adult life. The gallery writes, "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."