«My aim is to understand human beings more and more, their basic instincts, their way of surviving and prospering, their relations with others, of loving and declaring, lying, hiding or exposing and being truthful with one’s self. The principal opponent is one’s self, you are who you should constantly overcome and get out of your comfort zone.» (Javier Castro)
The Cuban artist Javier Castro does not feed on anemic academic «neo conceptual light». Javier rather draws from the abundance of Cuban everyday life; he descends into abysmal depths of human existence; he listens to the common people; and he mirrors and logs everyday scenes, which are often grotesque, but always real, taken one-to-one from the alleys of his former Barrio San Isidro in Habana Vieja and filmed tel quel. He creates searingly honest scenic documents of the human and the all too human, which are sometimes hard to stomach and on the verge of excruciating, but most of the time extremely exhilarating. His short video films stop at pretty much nothing; they are shameless and veristic at the same time.
Horrendous fantasies, wild speculations, projections, and fictions of all kinds determine the actions of his protagonists, who let themselves be filmed without a hassle—partly because they are neighbors, and partly because a bit of show and publicity won’t hurt after all… Whether he is dealing with skin, fingernails, sexual organs, or intensely personal confessions: Javier Castro’s scenes stand out by their tremendous intimacy and a truly touching immediacy that gets under our skin. The authenticity of the persons he films is beyond any doubt and distinguished by a profound honesty and humanity that we are hardly used to enduring anymore.
Full of irony and wit and at the same time crude and unfiltered, the little secrets of everyday life on this tropical island with its economic hopelessness and notorious state-imposed institutional insanity flash up in all the short and concise video scenes. The bottomless ordinariness of the precarious proletariat blends smoothly with its longing for boundless glamour, in Cuba more so than in most other countries of the world: uninhibited, clearer, wilder, and more painful, as if through a magnifying glass. Javier Castro has captured and registered this special feature with an affectionate and understanding wink: The artist’s deep empathy with his immediate surrounding can be sensed in all his films.
A few years ago, Javier Castro moved away from the island to the United States in order to see and understand more of the world: “Living, working, and creating on the island and abroad has been eye-opening in many ways. To get to know and experience new universes, languages, cultures, religions, and all types of conflicts has helped me to expand my worldview; this has been essential given the anthropological nature of my work. Traveling has also allowed me to question what it means to be a Cuban artist: Does one have to stay in Cuba to be a true Cuban artist? It’s a question that often haunts me, especially when I see the great number of exhibitions, publications, and events dedicated to Cuban art, which do not contribute to transgress the enclosures or the clichés that surround it.»
The artist’s power of precise observation gained new traction and took a change of direction. Leaving behind the familiar biotope of Habana Vieja, his art has moved toward more universal subjects, the presentation of which is sieved through a fine aesthetic filter. On the surface of things, his new works have so little in common with his veristic impressions of Cuban street life that they appear at first glance to be by a different artist. However, they logically and consistently continue his previous works. The constants running through his artistic creation are a latent, thoroughly eroticized violence and an ardent sensuality and eroticism paired with a certain tendency to walk on the wild side—only now their presentation is aesthetically sublimated.
Notably Javier Castro’s tetralogy «Four Basic Things (Coconuts / Flesh / Turtle / Water)» from 2018 is a small masterpiece of its kind. Entirely calm and yet of enormous visual power, relaxed yet highly dramatic, this is a mature work of art full of subtle nuances and elegant metaphors that is simultaneously determined by a serenely philosophical view of life: https://javiercastroart.com/installations/four-basic-things/