“I came to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already kindled” —Luke 12:49

Carlos Castro Arias

In Residence: Jan 27 – Mar 23, 2020

Exhibition: Mar 19 – Aug 23, 2020


Fire can also be seen as an allegory for emotional and psychological pain

In the United States, Texas ranks second in number of churches and has two of the largest megachurches in the world. The state has a long history with Christianity, and so upon Carlos Castro Arias’ arrival to Texas, he visited the Missions in San Antonio, the painted churches in Schulenburg, and Lakewood Church, a Houston megachurch.

Castro has always been interested in churches and religion, and both have taken various forms in his work. His project at Artpace “I came to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already kindled”—Luke 12:49 is in response to the sheer number of churches (mega and otherwise) in Texas, and also the increase in attacks on churches across the state in the past ten years. During his residency and first time in Texas, the artist wanted to explore these concepts and contradictions.

In the Christian tradition, fire is viewed as a metaphor for pain, but also purification, a material that is considered simultaneously generative and destructive. Fire can also be seen as an allegory for emotional and psychological pain, for racing thoughts and recurring memories that exist within and consume the body and mind, but also have the potential to strengthen a person. Fire as a medium, as well as a referent, is the common denominator among almost all of the works in this exhibition. Whether it is the large wall drawing done in soot or the bullet-riddled rose window, fire is both ever-present and an invisible but powerful force. Dark, perforated images of sky and gothic church interiors, blown glass text containing human ashes, and a black figure viewing an image of a burning church are combined with a video featuring the reverberating voice of Houston pastor Joel Osteen. The exhibition does not perpetuate one agenda or another but impresses upon the viewer numerous conundrums: heaven or hell, annihilation or creation, local or global, corporeal versus spiritual revealing the existing tensions between religious fervor and intolerance.

Download PDF of the Gallery Notes for The Land of Illustrious Men

Artist

Carlos Castro Arias

Tijuana, Mexico / San Diego, USA / Bogota, Colombia

Carlos Castro Arias was born in Bogota, Colombia. His interdisciplinary work explores individual and collective identity and the body as a personal and social entity. Through the formal and symbolic re-contextualization of objects and images, Castro leads viewers to a critical understanding of the past and present by examining and resurfacing mute histories.

His solo exhibitions include The Pain We Create, LA Galeria, Bogota (2019); The Language of Dead Things, Espacio el Dorado, Bogota (2017), Stagnant Heritage, MUZAC, Monteria (2015), Old News of the Present, 21st Projects, New York (2014); and Accidental Beauty, Museo Santa Clara, Bogota (2013). Notable group exhibitions include Doble Filo, Coral Gables Museum, Miami (2019); Comfortably Numb, Another Space, New York (2018); Open Art Biennale, Sweden (2017); Liquid Sensibilities, Cisneros Foundation Grants and Commissions, USA (2016); Space To Dream, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand (2016); X Mercosur Biennale, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2015); and O que seria do mundo sem as coisas que não existem?, Frestas Trienal, Sorocaba, Brazil (2014), amongst others.

Castro earned a B.F.A. at Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano (2002) and an M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute (2010). His musical projects include POPO (2000) and Los Claudios de Colombia (2005–Present). Castro lives and works between San Diego, Tijuana, and Bogota.

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Curator

Monica Espinel

New York, New York, USA

Monica Espinel is an independent curator and writer specialized in Modern and Contemporary Art from Latin America.  She has experience working internationally in museums, galleries, alternative art spaces, biennials, auction houses, art fairs, and philanthropy.  Curatorial projects include: ‘‘Black Milk: Theories on Suicide’’ (Marvelli Gallery, New York, 2004), ‘‘Carmen Herrera – Estructuras’’ (Latincollector, New York, 2008), ‘‘Memory Leaks’’ (Creon, New York, 2010), “Photographic Treasures from the Collection of Alfred Stieglitz” (curatorial assistant, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), “Rituals of Chaos” (Bronx Museum of the Arts, 2012), “The Skin I Live In” (SP-Arte, 2013), “Bruno Miguel: Todos à Mesa” (Galeria Emma Thomas, São Paulo, 2015) and “Hybrid Topographies – Encounters from Latin America” (Deutsche Bank, New York, 2018).
Espinel was a Mentor for the Associate Artists program of the Liverpool Biennial (2016-18) and is the recipient of numerous awards including ArtTable’s Diversity Grant to be a curatorial fellow at Wave Hill (2009), a Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation Curatorial Fellowship at the Bronx Museum of the Arts (2010), and a Roswell L. Gilpatric Award to work in the department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2011).  Her writing has been featured in ArtNexus, Arte al Dia, Flash Art and Artforum.com.
Espinel is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She holds a BS in psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Art History from Hunter College.

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