‘Trippy dreamscapes’ of Jacaeber Kastor to be featured at The Chambers Project
On Friday, Jacaeber Kastor’s solo show: “The Psychedelic Sun & other drawings,” opens at The Chambers Project.
In turns perplexing, disorienting, wondrous and utterly beguiling, Kastor’s drawings make you look, look again and then still more, trying to find your way in their miasmic magic until at last, well, you discover the special pleasure of being truly lost. And when you think you’re done, when you’ve decoded the esoteric and abstract, conjured all the forms and meanings from these oceans of latency, answered the call of otherness as if it were the sphinx’s riddle — turn the work or flip your head, around and around, because there is no single perspective to read Kastor’s psychedelic topography: it is an entwined and constantly unfolding omniverse that has no right side up or upside down.
If, in the course of your wanderings through Kastor’s meandering poetics of line and space, you come across the unexpected, the oddly familiar or the impossibly alien — for indeed you surely will, quite possibly all at once with overwhelming simultaneity — and you ask yourself how did you even come to get here, you might also ask how indeed did this artist arrive at just such a place himself.
Make no mistake about it, Kastor is an intrepid voyager of body and mind, an adventurer without destination or designation, a man without return for even when he has somehow been there before he understands it as different, everything nuanced with the subtle shifts of imperceptible change, actuality always just beyond the tiny grasp of appearance, reason or replication. His art, like the convolutions of a restless mind guiding the inspired hand of uncertainty, is the tracings of a mind-traveler, a map to the nowhere that is everywhere, something so personally idiosyncratic that it marks a shared commons where likeness meets in a zone of compatible dissimilarity.
Growing up in Berkeley in the ‘60s, son of an artist and art teacher from the abstract expressionist tradition whose legacy we might consider in Kastor’s penchant for the dissolving figuration into swirling abstractions, Kastor’s emerging vision further benefited from a formative exposure to the ideas and sensibilities of the counterculture and drug culture around him. Add to this some years as a competitive skier in Squaw Valley, various physical labor jobs on both coasts including construction, house painting, plumbing and working in a ship yard, a stint studying at the venerable San Francisco Art Institute and a number of years practicing Buddhism and meditation at a Zen center, and you have the fecund ground for the flower garden of this artist’s fertile growth. All this life experience however is almost secondary to the informal but deep artistic training Kastor got when he decided that if he was going to have to support his art with a day job — a certainty because he realized early that his work was too slow and laborious as well as not so commercially minded to make a living at — he would do so by opening a gallery.
Kastor opened his gallery, aptly named Psychedelic Solution, on a busy thoroughfare of New York City’s fabled West Village in 1986, and over the next decade curated a stunning game-changing series of shows featuring important visionary and psychedelic artists, including H. R. Giger, Rick Griffin, Robert Williams, Lee Conklin, Robert Crumb, Joe Coleman, Wes Wilson, Alex Grey, Vaughn and Mark Bode, Victor Moscoso, Mark Motherbaugh, Alton Kelley, Paul Mavrides, Stanley Mouse, Spain Rodriguez , Gilbert Shelton, John Van Hamersveld, S. Clay Wilson, Jonathan Shaw, Pushead and Axel Stocks. Though many were already legendary in the underground for their work in popular culture from posters and album cover art to comics, tattoos, surfing and custom car culture, for most it was among their very first exhibitions in a gallery context. For the many important West Coast artists in his roster, Kastor largely introduced them to the New York art world and media, exposing them to artists, collectors, critics and curators that would help establish these renegade voices to the fine art establishment. Beyond its capacity for sustaining many significant artists at a point in their career when widespread popular interest in them had waned, Psychedelic Solution was a primary education in what else art could be for generations of visual outlaws.
For all that Psychedelic Solution did for so many artists, and for all it did for a myriad of like-minded heads that appreciate this work despite — or because — how it somehow still resists authoritative ratification as fine art, it perhaps quite incidentally did even more for Kastor as an artist.
At the time this was far from apparent. The little loft he built as a drawing studio perched atop his gallery grew over time somewhat abandoned as the demands of running such an enterprise slowly consumed all his waking hours. Over the last few years of the gallery it lay fallow, constituting one of the more extended “fruitful gaps” as he refers to them, periods in which he was not so much practicing his craft as learning by exposure and osmosis. Having sold off his modest business empire in 2004, and being what we might politely call a retired gentlemen of leisure who can spend his time drawing entirely for himself without consideration of audience or sales, we see now a decade and a half later the fruits of his gap. Here, stripping away the graphic emphasis of his former masters who worked largely in popular commercial media, and delving into the nuanced line-work that made their art so inherently trippy, Kastor articulates those inchoate spaces where what is knowable ebbs into the dreamscapes of unfettered imagination. The effect is mesmerizing, as if the entire history of psychedelic aesthetics were put into a juicer, producing a distillate of many minds and countless hands working as none, an amalgam that is perfectly pure.
The Psychedelic Sun & other drawings, opens Friday with an artist reception from 5-9 p.m. For more information, go to http://www.thechambersproject.com.
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