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Yours, KOW

Water Paintings, 2018

A new law passed in Cuba in 2018 requires artists to obtain advance authorization from the government before engaging in any kind of artistic activity. The Decree 349 scrupulously lists what artists are and are not allowed to do if they want to obtain a permit. It is forbidden, for example, to depict members of the political class in works of art, except in complimentary fashion. Without authorization, artists are not only barred from making or selling art. They are prohibited from engaging in any kind of artistic activity, whether in public or privately.

Marco Castillo and some of his allies sought to renegotiate the law with the government, but in vain. It came into force. During those days and weeks, Castillo painted the series of white paintings that are now making their debut outside Cuba at KOW. The government’s art inspectors monitored him closely to make sure he did not make any work that was not according to their standards. At night, he would stretch canvases over frames, prime them, and paint on them with water, whose traces soon vanished. What we now see are not blank canvases but impossible pictures executed with painstaking care and perhaps to brilliant effect. Just without paint. Witnesses to, manifestos from, an imposed silence. Muzzled art.

Marco A. Castillo, Water Painting 4, 2018, water on canvas, 97.5 x 132 cm, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Marco A. Castillo, Water Painting 9, 2018, water on canvas, 132 x 97.5 cm, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Marco A. Castillo, Water Painting 7, 2018, water on canvas, 135.6 x 181 cm, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Marco A. Castillo, Water Painting 6, 2018, water on canvas, 135.6 x 181 cm, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Marco A. Castillo, Water Painting 8, 2018, water on canvas, 96 x 96 cm, photo: Ladislav Zajac

Water on canvas
Various sizes
Photos: Ladialav Zajac

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Marco A. Castillo

Marco A. Castillo is co-founder of the collective Los Carpinteros. The group was created in 1992 in Havana, Cuba, to develop practices that combine architectural forms, design and art, independent of individual authorship. While the collective gained wide international recognition as a group, Castillo has also been recognized for his individual work. In his career as an individual artist, he has experimented with the intersections between fine art, applied art, and decorative art to problematize aesthetic expectations and preconceptions associated with the Latin American history of modernism, socialist design, and Cuban traditions. In doing so, he also focuses on Cuba's current political developments as well as the now often forgotten achievements of modern Cuban architects and designers. He has been awarded different prizes, latest being the Medalla por la Cultura Nacional (Cuba, 2002).

Full Biography