By Marco Vera
Pablo Castañeda has been honing his craft as a visual artist on the Mexicali border for enough time now to have created his own visual lexicon, a world where border and pop influences collide head on with meaning and humanity. A critic's darling and a people's darling, Castañeda has succeeded where so many other contemporary artists fail: he has crafted a world that is all style and all substance. The son of a chemical engineer and an art teacher, Pablo began to experiment and work with different techniques and experimental disciplines as a graphic design student, delving into new artistic tendencies. Since childhood, Pablo developed a hearing impairment that caused him to go deaf, further strengthening his passion for art, dedicating himself to painting and improving in his profession daily. "This condition allows me to concentrate on everything I see in my environment and then I imagine personal situations and imagery which I later paint in endless canvases," states Castañeda. His work as a painter means the world to him.
Pablo Castañeda's work is a vivid patchwork of all that is beautiful and devastating about life on the U.S.-Mexico border. Influenced by classic, modern and contemporary art, Castañeda's unique style embraces reality and simulation, the abstract and the figurative; a jigsaw accident in a wide-eyed territory. "I consider myself a painter who recreates recent postmodern painting. In a sense, I am interested in the artistic, aesthetic forms that are capable of uniting all types of elements in the imagination and in reality," affirms Castañeda. In Baja California, art critics consider him one of the finest artists of his generation. "I like the idea of observing things, constructing and modifying the image in my painting, the manner in which I can take advantage of all that is of interest and incorporate it into painting is part of my process," states Castañeda. Pablo Castañeda's fantastic here and now surreal landscapes parade pop culture references, alluring and beautiful women, the occasional Hitchcockian self-portrait, tenderness and violence in deserted reality. "I see in my painting, more or less, that I am an analytic and synthetic postmodern painter," he states.
Pablo Castañeda also envelops the devastation and wreckage of contemporary Mexico inside the zippered bag of one of his primary influences: film noir. The images of narco violence in Castañeda's work also bring forth consequence, depicted through a compassionate eye, as an achingly aesthetic denunciation of the nation's troubles. His delicate black and white body of work crystallizes the serious, sobering sequels of a border intoxicated on an indefinite war. "The border is very interesting to me. I see the current situation, as well as the questioning of preconceived notions about the border. My painting seeks to reflect on a sociopolitical context, taking on everyday life themes that are a reflection of sociocultural change," illustrates Castañeda.
Never limited to one particular technique, Castañeda has grown in his use of mixed media to drive his vision of the unruly frontier forward. Intervened found objects, installation work, digital media, an assortment of periodical cutups, irreverent sculptures and substantial hits of wit all prance around his disruption of bidimensional trappings. "Even in traditional media I utilize various techniques and materials. I combine that which relates to traditional and new media. My preferences are painting, collage and photography," declares Castañeda. Pablo Castañeda's sense of humor is so rich it seems to poke fun at himself, at mediums, at tendencies, by utlizing contemporary art as a vehicle to comment on human reservations.
Pablo Castañeda, one of the finest artists Baja California has produced in decades, is a living example of where Northwestern Mexican art can direct its course by employing all of its influences and borderline sovereignty. An art full of currency and anxiety, unafraid and unabashed by convention and centralism. "Painting develops between a type of abstraction and figurativeness and magically transforms itself into something beautiful, seeking to look beyond the border art medium which I inhabit. Art must be sublime, ironic and provocative. Therefore, it should never leave its human and compassionate side behind. It's about making a painting, an aesthetic project, more so than a different current or movement. This is the art I make," affirms Castañeda. Expressing a love for being prolific, Castañeda is constantly at play within different disciplines, elevating the quality of contemporary work that can be produced in the Baja region. When asked about his future plans, Castañeda assures, "I am always painting something, participating, exhibiting something, always in progress."
The work of Pablo Castañeda can be seen throughout December in his current exhibition, Documentos, at Mexicali Rose Community Gallery.
Top Image: Simulacro 20: Crimen en el Pueblo Viejo.
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