Postered throughout downtown New York last year, the concentric diagram appeared equally an annotated target, enigmatic roadmap, and highly personalized flowchart. Andrew Castrucci composed this spiral of philosophical terms and concrete objects, twining them together in unlikely causal chains that forced a kind of bemused trance in passers-by. Unlike the mandalas of old, these circular images led one to meditate on the shortcomings of society and the specifics of perseverance, not the renunciation of worldly concern.
Born in 1961, Andrew Castrucci lives and works out of Bullet Space, an “urban artists” collaborative” in New York’s Lower East Side. As an urban resistant, or squatter, Castrucci fuses his life, work and politics in paintings, publications and installations that draw very literally on the realities of life at a societal margin, while simultaneously dissolving into ethereal abstraction.
The pieces in the “Hook” and “Wave” series illustrated here draw their inspiration from both the neighborhood of Bullet Space, located in a part of Manhattan once known as “Corlear’s Hook,” and Castrucci’s time teaching at a men’s psychiatric shelter on Ward’s Island. Tom McGlynn, who has written extensively on Castrucci’s work, observes:
“The physical locale of both (Castrucci’s) childhood haunts and his teaching position on Ward’s Island are bordered and surrounded by powerful tidal rivers, the Hudson and East Rivers, respectively, Castrucci brings up the memory of friends succumbed to AIDS, and patients on Ward’s Island dying similar deaths from tuberculosis or more violent ends in their reduced existence on the street. He equates death and disappearance with the seemingly impenetrable surface tension of the rushing river” (McGlynn, “Dystopian Dreaming).
McGlynn goes on to explain Castrucci’s “Symbolic duality” as a form of transcendent materialism. Castucci appropriates both the imagery and strategies of a life daily won from the city’s edges, once stacking urine filled bottles to form an alter-like screen that doubled as a munitions bank for squatters on constant conflict with police.
In his introduction to the artist’s Hook Series + related Elements exhibition, McGlynn continues,
“Castrucci’s psychic geography begins with a vision under water. Where he lives and works is submerged, certainly in relation to the rapid “Disney-fication” of rest of the city. His fishhooks seem appropriately pastoral metaphors, piercing through to the meat of the world beneath the facades of the virtual plane. Edges glisten in Hook series, where paint is applied directly to steel. There is a clear correspondence between the fish hook as a survival tool and its power as a transcendent symbol; the barbs suggest both the perennial hunt for spiritual sustenance and the ultimate mortification of the flesh.”