Rosemarie Castoro (1939–2015) is one of those artists who has been almost, but not quite, forgotten. A central figure in the New York art scene, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, she lived and worked alongside Yvonne Rainer, Lucy Lippard, Carl Andre, Vito Acconci, Robert Smithson, and Marjorie Strider. Neither a Minimalist nor a conceptualist, Castoro referred to herself as a “maximalist.” A self-declared “painter-sculptor,” she lived in the city her entire life, working across and between media—from sculpture, painting, and video to concrete poetry and performance. Her performative understanding of space comes through in every aspect of her work—a fact underscored by the title of this current exhibition of her work (on view through February 24, 2024). “Carving Space” comes from Castoro’s 1972–73 journal in which she interrogates the relationship of her work with space.
London Cracking (1969/2022), a rather unobtrusive crack piece, is central to the show. A line of aluminum tape runs across the floor, walls, and ceiling of the space, dividing it in two. Castoro began to make these spatially delimiting pieces after she created a similar line, or crack, to demarcate work and living space in her New York loft. This gesture was followed by outdoor works in which she performed the placing of a taped line in the street and a painted line made by cycling. Indoors, she experimented with hanging sculptures such as Small Burial (1973). As she explained to her then husband Werner Pichler, the idea for such sculptures emerged when she awoke from a bad dream envisioning tree roots growing down from the ceiling. Despite their slightness, these spindly structures, displaced from ground to ceiling, exude an air of strangeness.
Another curiosity in the show is the presence of what might be referred to as two-dimensional sculptures such as Climbing (Brushstroke) (1972)—relief works of Masonite and gesso scraped out in long gestural sweeps by the expansive movement of Castoro’s arm and body. Polaroids from her journal show a similar bodily engagement with her sculpture after making, too, as she treated it as an environment to move through and around.
There is a strong thread through the works, as line and gesture consistently point to the performative nature of Castoro’s making, although there are surprises to be had, too. For instance, the line drawings presented alongside Climbing (Brushstroke) were made after the sculpture, not before, as you might expect—perhaps closer to documentary than preparatory. Castoro, in fact, was fastidious about documenting her work, noting every material, moment, and penny spent at each stage. She took such things seriously, and there is a gravity to the show that supports that position.
Four stainless-steel sculptures mounted on knee-high plinths occupy the center of the gallery. These untitled pieces have an architectural feel, as if they might be maquettes for grand building projects, but they’re not. What appear to be fluted metal folds are not fluted at all, but individual sections carefully welded together to create pleated forms that play with inside and outside, two and three dimensions, and the relationship between machine- and handmade qualities.
In addition to the comprehensive presentation of Castoro’s work in “Carving Space,” Mostyn has also restaged one of Castoro’s most ambitious outdoor works. Trap A Zoid, a “painting you can walk in,” was originally made for Creative Time’s “Art on the Beach” in Battery Park City, New York, in 1978, and shown only once. This new iteration on the North Wales coast—on view from February 17 through March 5, 2024—uses reclaimed tree trunks from a local timber cooperative to reconstruct Castoro’s asymmetrical field of logs. Balancing an underlying grid with seemingly random placement, Trap A Zoid—one of several related arrangements associated with the phrase “an obstacle course for a dancer” in Castoro’s journal—embodies her commitment to sculptural and spatial experimentation.