As I sit here tapping away at my laptop in my favorite Brooklyn café, Outpost, a turntable is rotating Galaxie 500, sending Tugboat strains out over the speakers. The retro continues. Perhaps it is the right soundtrack to pair with Liset Castillo’s new show, Pain Is Universal But So Is Hope, now on view at the Black and White Gallery in Chelsea. The tenderhearted title could be a lyric. On Parking Lot, Dean Wareham achingly sings out:
Sitting on a subway train and Watching all the people lose their senses
Hiding in a parking lot and
Watching all the people fall to pieces
I don't mind
I think it's fine
The spare words, capturing ephemeral moments with big meanings, are carved out of guitar fuzz. Replace “words” with “structures” and “guitar fuzz” with “sand” and you get a description of Castillo’s work. Her large-scale photographs depict miniature, crumbling utopias, not dystopias. In an artist statement on the Brooklyn Museum’s website, she says:
The notion of movement, with which the work plays, offers a reading of the historic relationship between nature and artifice. It's for this reason that it is not the object that becomes the work, but rather its representation, the photograph as a symbol of the documentation, which offers itself to the spectator as testimony of the utopia that in the end lives only as image, in the process of disappearing.
Before walking into the gallery, I expected diorama-type representation, sandbox-scaled images easily filed into my tiny collection, but the photographs are physically slick. Their size is demanding and I wouldn’t describe the sandcastle pastiche of iconic buildings as cute. The arcades at Carlo Fontana’s Piazza San Pietro collapse, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim caves under its own weight, Golden Arches tumble, and, as an observer, I am detached from the escalating chaos. But I don’t mind. I think its fine.
Pain is Universal but so is Hope (Orange), 2007
C-print on Aluminum
70" X 92"