Canyon Castator


“I wanted to make paintings that took the temperature of our contemporary climate in real time, and deliver the diagnosis in a palatable, humorous way. There are a handful of themes that tie the work together, but most importantly they deal with the fragility of the mind in the age of connectivity. What people find when they go looking for validating ‘truth’ on the internet. The conspiracies, the bad faith mob mentality, and all the other trash that can take hold of a disassociated, vulnerable mind looking for ‘answers’” – Canyon Castator in conversation with Maria Vogel, Art of Choice, November 2019

Canyon Castator (b. 1989, Houston, TX) makes large-scale paintings that satirically address our social reality, bringing together an exuberant blend of figures culled from the internet, modern media, politics and personal experience. Castator’s world is hyperbolic, saturated with dissonant characters, knowing symbolism and distorted narratives. His distinctive aesthetic is not tied down to one language but fuse digital and traditional mediums in a cacophony of psychedelic brilliance. 

Born in Houston, Texas, Canyon Castator grew up in Colorado. After breaking his ankle while skateboarding, Castator found relief in making art and eventually moved to New York, where he taught himself to paint.

His work explores our relationship with the digital, reflecting the unfiltered cornucopia of images and content found online. In an attempt to “digest” this overwhelming experience, Castator collages a blend of dissonant characters onto the canvas: iconic cartoons feature alongside political figures and memes in a chaotic narrative that recalls the semi-animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Although seemingly contradictory, the characters are symbiotically entwined in their desolate and dumb existence. As pointed out by artist Gina Beavers: “Canyon’s characters go about their grim tasks alone and yet fully dependent on each other”. 

Castator accentuates this feeling of incongruity by merging digital and traditional painting techniques on the canvas. Castator executes preparatory drawings on the iPad, where he articulates the composition, meticulously arranging the figures like puzzle pieces. Some of the characters are then printed on the canvas with a distinctive claymation aesthetic; while others are realistically rendered in oil. It is this blend of fine art skills and disturbing cartoon-like figures that makes Castator’s work so unique: “When it’s successful, the two mediums are married together and work harmoniously. When it’s really successful the two mediums are completely at odds with one another and create this kind of chaotic visual conflict,” the artists explains (in conversation with Rom Levy, Street Art News, April 2020).

Castator’s early works depict the debauchery of party culture, heightening its grotesque aspects of violence, sex, drugs and wild vices. Casting disturbing and hyperbolic scenarios, these paintings provide a window into the herd mentality of youth culture.

His recent works have become less congruent in narrative and more dynamic. Distancing the figures from a unified and referential background, the paintings push into new profane realities and manoeuvre between contradictory symbols, iconic characters and absurd situations. The result is a bacchanal melange of textures and characters, whether rendered in flat, graphic shapes or perspectival depth. The experience of Castator’s paintings is a discombobulating and spontaneous journey into the modern mind, constantly plugged into multiple screens.

“Through all the cynical symbolism, knee jerk violence and goofy nudity there’s some kind of message. Maybe the message is that the world’s fucked, and has been fucked, but only through acknowledgement of said fucked-ness can we start to unfuck it.”  – Canyon Castator, November 2019.

Carl Kostyál organised Canyon Castator’s debut solo show in London, ‘No Politics at the Dinner Tableat Maison Assouline in 2018. Canyon Castator participated in the group show Malmö Sessions’, Ystadvägen 22, Carl Kostyál, Malmö, Sweden (2019); and in the following artist residencies organised by Carl Kostyál: ‘Coccaro on Paper’, at Masseria Torre Coccaro, Puglia, Italy (July 2018); ‘Draw Jam 2019’ and ‘Summer Artist Residency at Fontana di Vite 2019at Masseria Fontana di Vite, Matera, Italy.  Carl Kostyál Gallery exhibited Canyon Castator’s paintings at the 2020 ‘Felix Art Fair’, Los Angeles and 2020 ‘Dallas Art Fair’, Dallas, TX.

Castator’s upcoming shows with Carl Kostyál include a solo presentation in his gallery in Stockholm (August 2021). 

Canyon Castator’s works have been exhibited in galleries both nationally and internationally, including Postmasters Gallery, New York; The Unit, London; Gallery 151, New York; Louis B James, New York; Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf, Germany.