Mónica Castillo

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everyday life, gender, identity
Visual Arts (object, painting, photography, video art)
America, Central
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May 8, 2003
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Painting as a parody and analysis of everyday myths

In figurative pictures painted in the wake of the neo-Mexicanism of the 1980s and partly combined with objects, Mónica Costello took themes from Mexican tradition and history and presented them in the guise of classical European art, Mexican folk art and religious kitsch blended as parody. Her works mirror everyday urban myths as well as the role of women in modern society. These analyses went on in the late 90s in a series of pitiless self-portraits, painted as oils on canvas, on objects and in the form of objects.
Mónica Castillo belongs to the 1980s´ generation known as neo-Mexican. The term denotes more an attitude than a style and refers to artists who, like members of the post-revolutionary Mexican school (Julio Castellanos, Miguel Covarrubias, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and so on), turn critically to typical Mexican themes and everyday myths. Symbols of family, social and religious institutions appear in her pictures in the guise of classical European art, religious art, folk art and modern pop art and are ironically queried or presented in the form of parody, often with caustic humour. In her early paintings, resembling verbal puzzles, Mónica Castillo used poster-colours and strong contrasts, played with features of kitsch and sometimes incorporated real objects. Painting was an act of analysis with eschatological and fantastic features.

In the exhibition "Presentación en sociedad" ("Début", 1991) she was concerned mainly with the role of women in modern urban life and with the tallying clichés and pressures. Her painting "Hasta que el cochambre nos separe" ("Till Dirt us do Part", 1989-90), taken from a rococo couple by Boucher and framed by real cooking-utensils, playfully reflects on the twinkle of romantic promises and the dullness of married life. Other paintings refer to female sexuality and motherhood and show the female body as an object for consumption, on show in a society of consumers taught to be stiff and bigoted. The paintings often parody this ethos, presented in the catholic liturgy, and try to retrieve bodies "from the domain of the sacred" (Gonzalo Velez).

In works shown three years later in the exhibition "Salvavidas bajo su piel" ("Swimsuit under your Skin") as well as in the show "Yo es un otro" ("I is another", 1997), Mónica Castillo continued her project doggedly in the form of self-portraits. But these are more than "black narcissism" (Luis carl Emerich) or Kahlo´s tragic self-pity. They serve as a visual self-analysis - with biological, sexual, psychological and social overtones - of a face colonised by cosmetic surgery. "Mónica Castillo knows that our faces are not the mirrors of our bodies but rather their graves and that every self-portrait refers to a kind of embezzlement, to something hidden, lost and forbidden and finally faked in the face. Her works portray her as an act of social construction with whose help - with all its political and psychological vicissitudes - we trade in our differences and our similarities" (Osvaldo Sánchez).

Mónica Castillo explores her face in a photo-realistic way. She paints it in close-up, showing its pores, or in 58 separate pictures like passport photos, as if in a diary. She paints it in profile anatomically or in full-face with tears, pearls of sweat or a dripping nose, and with signs of illness or weariness. She paints it, as a whole or in part, on everyday objects like stones or her own fingernails, which she keeps in a leather case or in a padded container shaped like a head. She also reproduces her profile in the form of dough - from unbaked to baked or even burnt - in various conditions. She has recently been more concerned with photographic self-portraits in digital form. Mónica Castillo presents the face as a landscape marked by events and projections, individual and social. She peers behind the mask into the depths of identity.
Author: Nichael Nungesser


Mónica Castillo was born in 1960 in Mexico City, where she later studied painting under Guillermo Meza. She continued her studies from 1978-79 at the Sculoa Germanica in Rome, from 1979-80 at the Freie Kunstschule in Stuttgart, and from 1979-85 at the academy there under Rudolf Naegele, receiving a grant from the German government from 1983-85. From 1986-91 she belonged, together with Francisco Fernández (Taca), Claudia Hernández, Ruben Ortiz, Héctor and Nestor Quiñones as well as Diego Toledo to the art-group La Quiñonera, which worked in Coyoacán in the south of Mexico City in La Candelaria, a villa formerly housing the Quiñones brothers. In 1987 she designed the set for the ballet "Instrumentos" for the Compañía Nacional de Danza in the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City. In 1990 and 1995, she received grants for young artists from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. From 1991-92 she lived in Santiago de Chile. In 1993 she took part in the Visiting Artists Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was Mexico´s representative for a fresco-project at the international airport O´Hare in Chicago. In 1994-96 she taught visual art and art history at the Centro Nacional de las Artes and from 1997-99 at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas La Esmeralda, both in Mexico City. In 1996 she taught at the San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio in Texas and at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Cali. From 2000-03 she is a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores des Fondo Nacional and from 2001-04 a tutor for alternative media. In 2002 she took part in the Visiting Artists Program at the University of Montclaire, Upper Montclaire in New Jersey. Mónica Castillo lives and works in Mexico City.


Group Exhibitions (choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Almost“, Robert Miller Gallery, NewYork, USA "Contiene Glutamato“, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico "Colección Femsa - una mirada continental”, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo - MARCO, Monterrey, Mexico "Nuevas Castas”, Galeria Fernando Pradilla, Madrid, Spain 2004 "Cuerpo presente”, Galería José Luis Cuevas, Puebla, Mexico "Multitasquin”, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico 2003 "Mexico, Identidad y Ruptura“, Fundació Espais, Girona, Spain "Rayuela/Hopscotch”, The Univesity of Scranton and Marywood University, Pennsylvania, USA "Neues und Altes“, Galerie Albrecht, Munich, Germany 2001 "Der Faden der Penelope“, Galerie Susanne Albrecht, Munich, Germany "Clenchclutchflinch”, Paul Rodgers Gallery, New York, USA "Escultura en México siglo XX”, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico "Brooklyn!”, Palm Beach Museum of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, USA 2000 "Mexico-New York. A Vital Dialogue“, Centro Cultural Mexicano, New York, USA 1999 "Autour de lámour courtois“, Chalus, Limoges, France "Mexico-New York. A Vital Dialogue“, Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, New York, USA "Moments erotiques“, Galerie Bernd Dürr, Munich, Germany 1998 "III Salón de Arte Bancomer“, Museo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico "En los noventa: arte mexicano contemporáneo”, Mexican Cultural Institute, New York, USA "Cinco Continentes y una Ciudad”, Primer Salón Internacional de Pintura, Mexico City, Mexico "El cuerpo aludido, anatomías y construcciones”, Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico 1997 "Mexico Now. Point of Departure“, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA "Mexico Now. Point of Departure“, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, USA "The Other Modernities”, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany "Las Transgresiones del Cuerpo”, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico 1996 "Por mi raza hablará el espíritu“, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango del Banco de la República, Bogotá, Columbia 1995 "Los Espectros del Romanticismo“, Museo José Luis Cuevas, Mexico City, Mexico "Modas Melancólicas del Romanticismo”, "X" Teresa, Mexiko City, Mexico "Configura 2”, Galerie am Fischmarkt, Erfurt, Germany "Espíritu”, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, USA "Por mi raza hablará mi espíritu”, Intercambio México-Colombia Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico "Continental Discorse”, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, USA 1994 "NEO?“, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico "V Bienal de La Habana”, Centro Wilfredo Lam, Havana, Cuba "La Lotería”, Iturralde Gallery, Los Angeles, USA 1993 "Semejantes y Diversos“, Museo del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico "Traces of Memory”, Carla Stellweg Latin American & Contemporary Art, New York, USA "Arte Joven México-Chile”, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Santiago, Chile "10 Artistas de México”, Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York, USA "100 Pintores Mexicanos”, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey, Mexico 1992 "I Bienal de Pintura y Escultura”, Museo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico 1991 "Homenaje a Julio Cortázar”, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico "The Earth Itself”, Parallel Project, Los Angeles, USA 1990 "Festival”, Contemporary Art Center, Adelaide, Australia "Aquí y Allá", Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, USA 1989 "Guadalupe: epiphanie d´un métissage“, Centre Culturel du Mexique, Paris, France "Latir Constante”, Salón des Aztecas, Mexico City, Mexico 1988 "Rooted Visions: Mexican Art Today”, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New York, USA "Somos o Nos Parecemos”, Galería OMR, Mexiko City, Mexico "Jóvenes Pintores Mexicanos”, Museo de Bellas Artes, Havana, Mexico City, Cuba 1987 "6 artistas de los 60´s“, Galería Collage, Monterrey, Mexico "Se come”, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico "Figura a Figura”, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico 1985 "Semanas del Arte“, Heidenheim Studenten der Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart, Germany

Solo Exhibitions (choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2004 "Mónica Castillo 1993-2004”, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico 2002 "Mónica Castillo“, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA "Video”, Galería Animal, Santiago, Chile "Mónica Castillo: Tableau vivant”, Gallerie Albrecht, Munich, Germany 2000 "Hombres Pintados“, ACE Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico "Mónica Castillo”, ACE Gallery, Los Angeles, USA 1999 Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Bogotá, Colombia 1998 "Yo Es Un Otro“, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Sofía Imber, Caracas, Venezuela "Yo Es Un Otro“, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile, Chile 1997 "Yo Es Un Otro”, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Mexico 1994 "Salvavidas bajo su piel“, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico 1991 "Presentación en sociedad“, Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

The other Modernism

Contemporary Art from Africa, Asia & Latin America

(08 May 97 - 27 July 97)
Work: Title Unknown
Work: Title Unknown