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 for hallucinogenic drugs and conspiracy theory, then you paint visions. 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 visionary pop of Alex Grey or the political mysticism of 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. Perhaps because the artist is self-taught, as well, his emphasis on arcane spirituality, conspiratorial politics, and the personal vision, falls closer to folk art and outsider art than anything else. Close, but not exact.


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

Nor are the deployment of primitive spiritual tropes, such as Mayan ceremonial complexes, witch doctors, and Hindu chimera. Campo draws freely from these and any number of other 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 might cast light on some greater truths. A visiting sitar player sat in the corner serenading this neighborhood raga-junket. Attendees, largely an under-40 set, swayed to its intoxicated rhythms. If this sounds cliche or jokey I assure you the intention was deadly serious.


In fact, I’d offer that before one chooses to critique this art too harshly, or to mock it in any way, he or she should first recognize the many ways in which it corresponds with current populist attitudes in America, i.e. it taps the zeitgeist of our times. Yes, much of Campo’s art is well-worn hippie cliche; yet if you let your guard down and enter jocundly into his world, you may find yourself swayed by the sheer audacity of it all. What’s more: there are moments of profound beauty and heartfelt depth.

Near the exit, off in the farthest corner, a painting of exceptional quality hung. To its left was depicted a red humanoid figure seated atop a purple stump imprinted with hieroglyphs and a third eye; in front of him sits a massive head glowing at its edges from Campo’s simple outline of UV yellow paint. The cranium is transparent, as in a phrenology diagram, allowing the viewer to peer directly into it. Therein we get more eyeballs, more ancient symbols, several animal figures, and some abstract patterning.


The red humanoid to the left reaches out with his hand and touches the eye of this large head. The sentiment feels as much communal as it does personal and is both touching and thought-provoking. I found myself, in fact, pondering this strange interplay of man-as-spiritual-individual versus man-as-social-creature long after I left the show tonight. I’ve my own thoughts on this matter, as I’m sure we all do, yet I wondered what Campo’s take on it was?

It seems to me his art, at its core, is about bridging the gap between the individual and the space around the individual. He clearly doesn’t view convention or established norms as giving one a realistic opportunity to synergize and/or live fluidly. So what’s the alternative? We need to go deeper, Campo’s art ostensibly says, to take risks, to investigate, throw common sense out the window, play the fool, speak in tongues, if that’s what it takes to uncover hidden truths and connect to our fellow man. For to lose sight of the interconnectedness of all things is to become essentially blind; and this art is about seeing. (Brian Chidester)