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Review: Castillo at Tarryn Teresa Gallery

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Two of Castillo’s three installations at Tarryn Teresa Gallery are made of synthetic hair, and the third evokes flowing tresses but is made of rope. Hair — including its surrogates and artificial substitutes — is a perfect post-minimalist material, pure in line and rich in bodily and cultural associations. That suggestiveness helps give Castillo’s otherwise subdued work a measure of power.

“Strand” is the simplest but the most affecting. It consists only of a length of industrially heavy rope looped around an iron hook in the ceiling. The rope twists around a few times on its way down; then, at about chest height, it unfurls, separating into what must be hundreds of wavy strands that fan out across the floor in a giant wedge, ending in a curly rim.

The relationship of part to whole is rendered with beautiful immediacy. Strength divides into delicacy and vulnerability; grace, multiplied, produces formidable heft. The unraveled rope emits a musky smell, that of its raw, fibrous nature. At the same time, it conjures the fabled plaits of Rapunzel.

In “Divinia,” a haloed curtain hangs rather mutely over a small pile of fake black hair. In “Ecliptic Eccentricity,” Castillo (one of this year’s City of Los Angeles, or C.O.L.A., fellowship award winners) dangles five huge hairballs, each 3 feet in diameter, from rusted chains. The spheres hang in a row, four sheathed in black synthetic hair and one matted in platinum blond. They make an imposing presence, like planetary orbs in a schematic display, or oversized, feminized cannonballs. Castillo practices a canny kind of truth to materials: The hair’s function is to beautify, but amassed in this quantity and format, it verges on the grotesque.

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-- Leah Ollman

Tarryn Teresa Gallery, 1820 Industrial St., No. 230, L.A., (213) 627-5100, through June 18. Closed Sundays.


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