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Born 1939, lived and worked in New York
Rosemarie Castoro was a central protagonist among of the New York Minimalists and one of the few highly recognized female painters in this milieu.
In the early 1960s Castoro found her initial inspiration in modern dance. She collaborated with Minimal Dance pioneer Yvonne Rainer and at Pratt Institute she got intensely involved with choreography.
“When I danced I leapt through the air and continued to remain up there…I felt a self-propelled air- stretch. It was a way to leave this earth, to bring coherence to reality, to find a path again, to deeper the grooves and push the forest of the half blind.”
-R. Castoro, quoted in: Lucy Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
This highly evolved early practice served Castoro to explore three-dimensional space. By 1964 she decided to channel her central aesthetic concerns focusing on painting and drawing. Castoro created henceforth a pioneering body of work of highly sophisticated hard-edge abstraction.
Her form vocabulary first defined in experimental drawings was soon further developed in prominently scaled canvases. At times Castoro allowed her abstract structures to grow into greatly extended visionary formats reminiscent to the presence of public murals. Yet, these large-scale works show the same sensibility for filigree structure and detail as her intimate work on paper, – the laboratory of all of Castoro’s soon expanding practice.
“In 1964-65 Castoro was making allover abstractions of gestural but tightly packed tile-like shapes which evolved into a basic “Y” unit, and then into strands or brands, like beams of light intersecting and interweaving in space.”
-Lucy Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
“In 1965 a dominant element emerged: the “Y.” I answered its question by painting “Y’s” on 7’ square single color fields.”
Rosemarie Castoro’s work is an exploration of the dynamics of space realized in structural experiment and intriguing color composition. Frank Stella pronounced Castoro as one of the most original colorists of her time.
Rosemarie Castoro was working in direct dialogue with the new Minimalist tendencies. She invented a very specific conceptual language translated into abstraction. In 1968 she began her Inventory drawings and paintings based on mundane perceptions structured in numeric systems.
“The ‘inventory’ drawings and paintings emerged from the split vision experienced in taking inventory of my surroundings. I began structuring visual realty in numbers. By noticing dominant objects my number system did not exceed five including a quality count of 0 and 5. For example, look upon a scene: a tree on your left could be 1, a group of people on your right could be 20, but counting as a qualitative 5 or 0, depending on how I felt about them. I made lists of numbers and after a while, what was seen was absorbed into the listing. I plotted them on either side of the paper and canvas, left and right, and made connections.”
-R. Castoro, Feb 25, 2014
Since 1969 Castoro participated in the now legendary “Art Worker’s Coalition” meetings “after it was opened up to all artists, where previously I was excluded from meetings at my own loft, which included Takis, Hans Haacke and Carl Andre”.
By this time Castoro extended her practice into the fields of Concrete Poetry, Concept Art and Site-Specific interventions.
“In March, 1969, Castoro rode her bicycle at midnight from Spring Street to 52nd Street, leaking white enamel paint from a pierced can and leaving behind a linear trail. In April she “cracked” a block of the sidewalk on 13th Street with a meandering line of thin silver tape; in May she used the same medium to splinter the rooms of the Paul Cooper Gallery, and in September, she made a gigantic cracking at the Seattle World’s Fair Center. It visually evoked a seismic disturbance quite out of proportion to the material expended.”
-L. Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
In a show at Paula Cooper Gallery “Gallery Cracking” Castoro drew an irregular line through the entire space with silver tape alluding to a future vision in which this demarcated area would be broken off the existing space, ‘like a giant biting a piece out of the building’ (R. Castoro).
“In 1969 she created the 24-part series of visual poetry A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR. In conceptual drawings and diaristic pieces Castoro developed a quasi-scientific system with which she structured her daily activities to an absurd degree of ratio, – “the best ‘fiction’ I have read about the life of an artist” (L. Lippard).
“I sometimes watch myself in time by recording my activity with the stop watch.”
-R. Castoro, quoted in: L. Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
Invited by Lucy Lippard to meetings of the feminist art movement circles, Castoro – strictly dedicated to her non-representational abstract style of work – kept distance to the movement.
Lippard stated later:
“Castoro’s continuous activity focuses on the line as a formal solution. Although sexual in its drive, her work is too fast to be sensuous, too controlled to release all of its energy; it exists in a state of extremely structured tension, its momentum expressed with great physical intelligence by implied projection of the body into space.”
-L. Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
In 1972 Castoro introduced at Tibor de Nagy gallery her first giant minimal sculptures, the ‘Free Standing Walls’.
“These were paintings taken off the wall and transformed into their own enclosures – “screens”, “corners” a “revolving door”, and a curving “tunnel entranceway”. Graphite rubbed over a dense impasto surface of gesso and modeling paste provided a muscular abstraction of their creation. The vigorous swashes resisted and eventually rebelled against rectangular confinement, and during 1972 the “brushstrokes” broke away and became separate entities.”
-L. Lippard, ARTFORUM, 1975
Rosemarie Castoro regarded herself as a “futurist”.
“What does an artist want? Exposure. Something snaps our vision. The Body responds with production. ‘Castoro, Castoro, I saw your paintings at Johnny’s. I liked them very much. I thought you were a boy. I turned around and went back to Spring Street, producing my next body of work. My energies in the world were for those not yet born. …Cezanne didn’t live on institutional acceptance. Time validates and invalidates. …”
-R. Castor, ArtNews, 1971
Public and Corporate Collections (Select):
Museum of Modern Art, New York; Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey; University Art Museum, Berkeley; Centre National Des Arts Plastiques, Paris; Collection U.S. Embassy; Goldman Sachs; Bank of America; J.P. Morgan
Guggenheim Fellowship, 1971; NY State Council on the Arts 1972, 1973; National Endowment for the Arts, 1975, 1985; Tiffany Foundation, 1977; Pollock-Krasner Foundation, 1989, 1998