These paintings on canvas, paper, and board, show the beginning of the Chupicuaro period starting in 1983. They display a variety of Mario Castillo’s pictorial concerns in exploring different ways of showing the human countenance. Since the late 1950’s, he has been involved with showing emotions behind the facial façade. Castillo has used this Early Chupicuaro facet as a means of unmasking the human nature of the most captivating and expressive subject we have as individuals; the face, for human physiognomy, as we know, can communicate a diversity of moods.
Along with this established task of displaying feelings through line, shape, and color, Mario Castillo adds another important objective to this creative process. He takes the given format or pictorial plane and turns it into an aesthetic field that becomes a playground for the experimentation of visual compositions. These works are about an overall field in which the face is the main subject matter, where the field is the face and the face is the field, without it becoming a figure-ground relationship problem. Unlike the Middle Chupicuaro Period where there is a built in ambiguity between the figure and the ground, these early pieces started out more as a flattened visage which attempts to cover any glimpse the viewer might have of the background. Yes, later the background starts to peak from behind and eventually shows itself more as these works progress towards the middle state.
With some of these earlier works, Mario Castillo pays tribute to a Mexicaness which aligns itself with the distorted effects used by the famous Mexican artist, Jose Luis Cuevas. Forlorn and nostalgic sensations show through the veils of paint to arrive at an upsetting sense of loss and awe. Just as other Mexican artists do, Mario Castillo’s art work hints at a macabre state of mind. They also have a tendency to identify themselves as mestizo or indigenous characters based on the ancient Teotihuacan masks and smiling clay figurines from the Mesoamerica era in Veracruz, Mexico.
Many of these works pay tribute to Willem de Kooning, one of America’s greatest contributors to the Modern Art movement of Abstract Expressionism while others borrow shapes from Synthetic Cubism. Some of these are actually “Chupicuaro” portraits of one of the most famous Spanish artists, Pablo Picasso. From very early on, Picasso had played an important role in guiding the direction of Mario Castillo’s work. It is important to note that since Mario Castillo’s art tendencies were shaped in Chicago, he was also influenced by the regional Imagist artists of the 1960’s, especially the Hairy Who group. Traces of these influences can be detected within the Chupicuaro Style.