As if any further evidence of our failed institutions were needed, the presidential debate of two weeks ago summarily closed that case. What now?

If you’re a self-taught artist, born in Cuba, raised near Times Square, living currently in Brooklyn, with a taste for the visionary, for hallucinogenic drugs and conspiracy theory, then you paint worlds. Myztico Campo (“Tico” to his friends) does just that, and his latest series is on view at Cheryl’s Global Soul: a bar/nightclub/soul food restaurant and de-facto art gallery.

Anyone familiar with the shamanic pop culture work of Alex Grey or Mear One should immediately recognize a kindred spirit in Campo. Which is to say: his paintings are not so much a repudiation of contemporary fine-art as a different, parallel strand. And because of the artist’s self-taught nature—plus his emphasis on arcane spirituality, conspiratorial politics, and the personal vision (not to mention a crude style of expressionism)—Campo falls closer to folk art and outsider art than anything else. Close, but not exact.


For one, his politics aren’t wonky like a lot of outsider artists. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find Campo carrying wallet-sizes of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein in his back pocket, though such tastes for the anti-establishment are hardly hermetically sealed these days.

Nor are the deployment of primitive spiritual tropes, like Mayan ceremonial complexes, witch doctors, and Hindu chimera. Campo draws freely from any number of such polytheistic traditions and adds to them conceits of ancient alien theory and psychedelic blacklight paint. The artist claims his ideas come from personal visions, though it’s hard to imagine such visions coming in a void.

That’s not to say they are entirely kitsch, though even there it seems Campo doesn’t give a shit. For most of the show, he walked around in tall top-hat, bell-bottoms imprinted with blacklight symbols, and a bright hippie t-shirt—happy to play the court jester if it casts a light on greater truths. A visiting sitar player sat in the corner backing the neighborhood raga-junket, whilst attendees swayed to its intoxicated rhythms. If this sounds a bit cliche or jokey, I assure you the intention was deadly serious.


In fact, to mock such art one must first concede its overall zeitgeist (and that it touches a nerve). Sure, much of this is well-worn hippie cliche; yet if you let your guard down and enter jocundly into Campo’s world, you might find yourself impressed by the sheer audacity of his perspective. What’s more, there are moments of profound beauty and heartfelt depth.

Near the exit, off in the farthest corner, hung a painting of exceptional quality. In it, a red humanoid figure sits atop a purple stump, imprinted with hieroglyphs and a third eye; in front of him is a massive head, glowing at its edges from a simple line of UV yellow paint.

The cranium is open, like a phrenology diagram, so that the viewer can see into it, wherein more eyeballs, ancient symbols, animals, and abstract patterns proliferate.


The red man reaches out to the large head with his left hand, touching the outer eye as if to enter through it; to access and to see from its vantage.

The sentiment is communal, yet it is also deeply personal. I found myself, amidst the flickering blacklight and strange sitar music and dancing hippie chicks, thinking that it is we who make ourselves what we are. Indeed, we choose, every day, every moment, bit by bit, to see through the eye: bigger than you or me, yet requiring each of us to play our part. (Brian Chidester)