Art is the only messenger that customizes the message to the understanding of the single individual. Visual art’s expressions are tailored to solicit particular responses. Every great artist is born with the ability to guide without manipulating the viewer’s emotions to an understanding of the passion, the sadness, the sentiments, the speculations, the anxieties, the love and misunderstood tendency of a class in society that the orthography, the semantics and the phonics of words cannot epitomize.
Today visual art in New York City has become an accessory of luxury and much too its dismay, many so-called artists are doing nothing more than interior designing. Art unfortunately is treated like real estate and traded like stocks. The brokers are eager to make a fast profit and the artist is looking to get rich. This leaves no time for the proper development of the artist; it does not allow the artist to find themselves, it does not allow the artist to interact with the world and be inspired by their natural elements of emotions.
Unlike many artists throughout New York City, Gabino Abraham Castelan’s exceptional vigorous works is a luxury available to everyone, especially those who inspire it. Castelan has painted murals for all in Harlem to enjoy. His work as he says “is a representation of the working class in the city and what their hard work has created.”
“I want to show” he says “their culture, their conditions but most of all, the manner they celebrate each day through everything.”
In his work titled Paradise under Construction, the viewer travels back to the beginning of the New World. We are shown a Native American working in the field and we progressively move forward into the industrial age of America and finally we see in the center of the piece the colors of the modern day construction worker working.
When I sat down with Gabino Abraham Catelan at his studio, I ask him about his expectation, his experience, his technique and life. When asked what his expectations as an artist were, Castelan’s response was surprising, mainly because of the honesty and humanity in it. “Let me tell you something,” he said, as he leaned forward on his seat, “I’ve come to accept that I am not here to change the world with my work, nor am I trying to change anyone’s view of it. I just want to show people an interpretation of what I see, the struggles of the working class, I don’t want to change things but I want to open a dialogue, so that everyone can be involved in trying to find a solution to different issues that we face not only here in the city but also around the world.”
“I want to unite people with my work,” Castelan said as he opened a beer and handed it to me. One night in 2012,” he said, “I was working on a mural titled Conserving for Tomorrow on the outside wall of a gallery in Harlem called Studio 323. I designed my images at my studio and then used my laptop and a projector to help me paint at whatever location I’m working at. On this night,” he said, “as I was working, two young men approached me, one on foot and the other on a bike. The one on foot grabbed my laptop and ran; not far.” He said, “He didn’t realize that it was plugged into things and tripped on the wires. As he laid on the sidewalk I took a deep breath and walked over to him. This boy was confused; I think he was unsure of what I would do so he just stayed there on the ground. So I extended my hand to help him up.”
“When I asked him what his deal was he said to me. ‘I’m sorry man I’m hot, I hungry and I’m in the ghetto’ when he said that,” Castelan continued, “I saw myself in him. He gave me my computer back and I gave him the only two dollars I had left. I told him that I understood him, I said to him I’m from Harlem too. He asked me what it was I was doing and I explained to him the concept of the mural and how this was painting for us, a vision of everything he was feeling. He walked back to the mural and just stared. When I came back the next morning the same two young men that try to rob me the night before were there waiting for me, they approached me and asked if they could help me with the mural. And that’s what I mean when I say that I want my work to unite people.”
Castelan continues to grow as an artist moving on to creating installations with movement yet without losing his core message of the struggle of the worker; he incorporates lights, projectors and objects associated with the life of not only the worker but the city herself. Gabino Abraham Castelan’s compelling work is a reminder that art should not be kept from anyone. It’s alright to treat art like a business and make a profit from it but let it keep its humanity. After all, art’s true process is to remind us all to be humane to our humanity.
For information on Gabino Abraham Castelan’s work please visit www.gabinocastelan.com