Interview: Francesco LoCastro's Transfiguration

"My favorite art is generally made by people younger than me. It smells of revolution."

Francesco LoCastro, as serious and authentic as he is brimming with stories of the Miami art world, partly takes responsibility for this burgeoning epicenter of contemporary art at the tip of the Florida peninsula. He was born in Catania, Italy, known for its seismic nature from neighboring volcano Mt. Etna after which he was raised in Germany. He finally landed in Miami, a significant juncture of Caribbean and Latin American cultures. And here, it is easy to see why he might hold the role of a provocateur, raised between volcanic- and hurricane-altered landscapes, while sharing the kind of radical artistic sensibility of Berlin. Music, and variegated cultural influences led LoCastro from graffiti to graphic murals to demotic portraits. Just as Ed Paschke turned the underworld figures of Chicago into cartoon-tinted icons, Locastro made iconic the various denizens of Miami such as Luis, from his "Faces" series. His recent work removes the recognizable signifiers of his earlier career and plunges into a realm of carefully-layered geometry and video animation.

Francesco LoCastro’s recent "Geometry" series strips away the recognizable sets and actors of civilization and leaves the viewer with no more than a morphing, multi-faceted image - or is it an illusion? The work, some of which has been translated into a filmic experience, provides the opportunity for what LoCastro believes can “transport us into realms that bend us to view reality in a different way, expanding our perceptive capability.” Locastro, who paints his designs with the eloquence of a philosopher, creates scenes to experience, a relationship between viewed surface and viewer which must in its result be transformative.

LoCastro became a sort of father to the contemporary Miami art scene, bringing national attention through such efforts as helping found the VANGUARD Art Fair as part of Art Basel which emphasizes emerging trends in the New Contemporary movements of Pop Surrealism and Street Art. In 2006 he curated the “We'll Make A Lover Of You” Exhibition at the Art Center/South Florida, a National Endowment for the Arts-funded showcase which made clear Pop Surrealist art as an important facet of the contemporary scene. He now manages projects as CEO & Founder of Pop Art Studios Inc., a commercial art & design studio which serves as his Miami base.

Francesco took the time to speak with KNSTRCT about his new "Geometry" series, his philosophy on technology and art, and some of his favorite spots in Miami.

K: Let’s start off with an easy question: Describe a walk through your favorite places in Miami.


-Start the day with a cup of fresh watermelon juice from the Latin Café

-Head to the beach at North Shore Open Space Park

-Visit Sweat Records for coffee & the lowdown on new music

-Go for a steam at The Standard

-Stroll through South Pointe Park - the best ocean view for lunch meetings at Smith & Wollensky.

-Take a bike ride through Shark Valley & hike down to Mahogany Hammock at Everglades National Park

-Visit Churchill’s Pub for some Veggie Curry with a side of Punk Rock

-Dinner at Mandolin Aegean Bistro, whenever possible -Late nights at The Corner

K: Best place to get sandwiches?

FL: Publix!

K: Best place to think?

FL: Miami Beach Boardwalk at 6 am.

K: You describe yourself as a painter at heart, where “use of color, compositional and technical decisions” become king, even amidst large variance of media used to accomplish the work. What does it mean to shift media - is it refreshing, a new challenge?

FL: I like to think of an aesthetic premise to be this malleable, ever-changing & constantly evolving abstract concept that flows through many incarnations, somewhere in between Art & Design, pure form and function. I never tire of experimenting with new media, and love seeing my work translated into different formats. It often yields unexpected results that tend to push the work to new levels. My intention is to always leave room for happy accidents. It keeps me learning and exploring new avenues.

K: In your recent “Geometry" series you delve into film, animation, and alternate forms of media, creating an immersive and often illusory experience on the canvas. Can you lead us through your process for creating these paintings and then translating them into film?

FL: This painting technique involves the intricate layering of pigment and resin to achieve a heightened sense of dimension and depth. What at first glance appears to be the result of countless hours spent with graphic design software is revealed at closer examination to be handcrafted combinations of acrylic, spray paint, epoxy resin and gold leaf shapes applied on wood. Light enters the painting and shadows cast within the layers add further depth to the work, resulting in a 3D effect. The paintings serve as blueprints, visual starting points for the development of the animations. I’ve been honored to work with renowned motion graphic artists Beeple and Dark Intersection who have been able to expertly translate my work into moving compositions. These animations are now under further development to become fully immersive virtual reality environments, which can be experienced with VR headsets like the Oculus Rift.

K: Your intricately crafted designs appear as the product of graphic design but are as you described complex layers of paint and resin appearing to result in a 3D image. How does illusion factor into your work and your desire for the viewer’s challenging experience of art?

FL: The latest scientific discoveries in the field of Quantum physics seem to support the notion that if our own reality is not in actuality an illusion in itself, then at the very least our sensory capacity only allows us to perceive a limited scope of the Universe’s multidimensional spectrum. I try to break down and dissect this perceived reality by offering visual cross-sections that pry open further realms, encompassing the human experience at micro and macro scales. In other words, I see my paintings as an attempt to get at a deeper truth, exposing an underlying existential framework that completes our deceptively limited view of reality. Life is the illusion. Art is the truth that pulls back the curtain.

K: You have plenty of experience as a curator as well, translating the artist’s concept into the comprehensible for a viewer. Can you describe the curator’s responsibility to make a challenging experience of an exhibition?

FL: The curator is the conductor of creative forces, a catalyst facilitating communication between artist, public, brand or sponsor, and institution. Finding a common language and aligning these forces to coalesce into a well-balanced experience requires nothing short of virtuosity, and is certainly the deciding factor in the overall success of an exhibition. Somewhere between creative talent, public demand and business interest lies a great cultural experience. A good curator knows how to balance all interests and unite them into something significant.

K: Do you think an artist should create art that allows a transcendent experience for the viewer?

FL: Art, at its purest, has the ability to take us out of our own skin and transport us into realms that bend us to view reality in a different way, expanding our perceptive capability. It helps us relate to the world around us and fosters compassion. By seeing the otherworldly, we end up appreciating the mundane. By seeing the bigger picture, we gain access to the spiritual. That is the promise of art and the power that creativity inherently yields. Knowing that such transcendent potential lies within the artist’s reach, how can we refrain from harnessing it?

K: Considering differing media iterations of technological singularity – including Blade Runner, iRobot, or Her most recently - do you feel optimistic about this idea? Do you think perhaps technology-based beings would be able to shift our perception about race, sex, class and all the inherent superiorities and inferiorities we develop?

FL: I find it difficult to see technology at odds with humanity’s destiny, just as I can’t separate humankind from its earthly origins. It all is an extension of Nature’s progression and a part of an evolutionary dance playing itself out to the very end. Therefore, should we see the emergence of superior artificial intelligence, it will take its place as an evolutionary descendant of mankind. It will inherently continue to be us, just like we share 50% of our DNA with the banana. Whatever comes next, whichever being follows the Homo Sapiens, it is certain to take its place in accordance with a natural order of ever-growing complexity and beauty. Therefore, I have to embrace the stance that even the direst predictions of man versus robot scenarios will fall in line with Nature’s will.

K: Can humans ever approach technological literacy of similar rates that technology is becoming literate about humans?

FL: Again, under the umbrella of natural evolution, I see it all as one and the same. Any transition will most likely be gradual. We will continue to enhance our biological capabilities through technology to the point where we will eventually become something that needs to be classified as a new species. Like the Neanderthal, Homo Sapiens will become a distant relative. Yet whatever comes next will undoubtedly go on as mankind’s evolutionary progeny.

K: Your recent art shifts towards an immersive experience, the vibrant energy and release of short videos, which transform your work into landscapes. Do you feel like this is the next step in a painter’s vision - a step towards more immersive art - or do you feel it is a necessity to bend to technology’s entrance into art as necessary to our technological literacy in the realm of concepts?

FL: Advances in technology have certainly opened up a new frontier in art and we are now able to expand on ideas in new and exciting ways. Even though the art and tech symbiosis offers fertile ground for new explorations, I don’t believe it indispensable to the creative pursuit. It’s a great tool that can enhance an art experience greatly. Gratuitous use, however, may still get in the way of the story and won’t necessarily serve the work’s efficacy. Still, I believe that by harnessing new media with conscious effort, we’re bound to expand on the creative vocabulary. And that can only be a good thing.

K: And finally, what art do you collect or like to surround yourself with?

FL: My favorite art is generally made by people younger than me. It smells of revolution.