Sweeter Than Roses | Victor Castillo: Solo Exhibition

17 March - 18 May 2021

Victor Castillo's Sweeter Than Roses
By Dian Hanson, TASCHEN Sexy Book Editor

When artists overpaint photographs they generally deface their canvas in something akin to graffiti. Though the paint may be skillfully applied it still blurs and obscures, canceling instead of enhancing the original.

This is not the case with Victor Castillo's Sweeter Than Roses. Rather than cancel, Castillo's brush bonds in a symbiotic and loving relationship with photos originally created for American men's magazines between 1960 and '69. He explains that he encountered such magazines as a child, hidden by his older brother at home, and in almecenes de barrio and mechanic's bays: the gendered spaces where men gathered without women. Current brain studies confirm that viewing sexually charged photos triggers the release of dopamine, which fixes pleasure to memory, and oxytocin, the human bonding hormone. When Castillo reencountered the black and white women of his youth synapses fired, receptors received, and he felt a deep, immediate, sensual connection, coupled with a child's yearning to somehow touch these magical avatars of first love.

His touch takes the form of intricate tattoos, rendered in ink and acrylic, perfectly embracing the curves of each fantasy mistress. Wrapping them in his signature creations - menacing iterations of classic children's illustration - is both a gift of affectionate memory, and an act of impetuous possession, making them his own, while suggesting they chose his tattoos from reciprocal admiration.

Castillo describes the series as an act of love and will explore the feeling further by painting on living models in collaboration with a photographer.