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Indepth Arts News:

"Monica Castillo: The Painter and the Body"
2005-10-05 until 2006-01-22
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC, USA

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) launches its new exhibition program Women Artists Worldwide, a long-term series of exhibitions cosponsored and organized with international embassies. NMWA’s collaborations will focus on presenting important contemporary women artists from countries around the globe and increase the recognition of living women artists of all nationalities.

To kick off the series Women Artists Worldwide, NMWA presents the exhibition Mónica Castillo: The Painter and the Body. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in conjunction with the Cultural Institute of Mexico, NMWA hosts Mexican Soul: Women in the Mexican Arts, a series of films, literary readings, music and dance performances, and the Castillo exhibition.

Comprised of ten works of art addressing issues of identity, representation, and verisimilitude, Mónica Castillo: The Painter and the Body is on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from October 5, 2005 - January 22, 2006.

Mónica Castillo (b. 1961) is one of Mexico’s most important contemporary artists whose recognition goes well beyond her own country. She works in painting, sculpture, video, and digitally manipulates photographs. Castillo’s pieces are thoughtful, highly intellectual, and well crafted, appealing to a broad audience. She has a distinctive approach to her art making - a seemingly detached, almost scientific investigation of her subjects. Whether the subjects are leaves and flowers, the bodies of models, or her own face, Castillo dissects, performs experiments, tests physiological reactions, and explores facial topographies.

During the 1990s, Castillo rose to critical fame with her self-portraits. Using her own face as the focus for much of her art, the paintings, photographs, and objects she created can hardly be called self-portraits in the traditional sense. Her goal was not to present a truthful self-portrait or to create a record of self-reflection, but rather to use her face to explore the boundaries of representation. Often employing surprising materials and techniques for her self-portraits - bread, bronze, cotton, cow hides, stones and fingernail clippings - Castillo places her emphasis on the limits of representations and its capacity to determine our perception.

With wit and insight, in some works Castillo explores art’s ability to come as close as possible to representing a subject by painting directly on her subject. On the surface of an ear, knee, or hand, Castillo paints representations of the very same body part, and thus achieves a kind of hyperrealism of the body. In some of her photographs and videos of this process, Castillo carries the connection between painting and the body even further, touching her model’s body with a brush and eliciting physical responses to that painting gesture.

Castillo has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, the Museum of Contemporary Art Sofía Imber in Caracas, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago de Chile, and the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá. Beyond the Americas, Castillo has been given solo exhibitions in Munich, New York, and Los Angeles, among other cities.

Britta Konau, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, serves as the curator for the exhibition Mónica Castillo: The Painter and the Body.

Mónica Castillo: The Painter and the Body is organized by NMWA in collaboration with the Cultural Institute of the Embassy of Mexico. In-kind support has been provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

Mónica Castillo
Self-Portrait in Shifts, 1994
oil on canvas
31 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.
Collection FARCO, Guadalajara, Mexico

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