By WILLIAM J. WRIGHT
Often imitated but never duplicated, Swiss-born H.R. Giger was one of the most important artists of the 20th century. The originator of a style that would come to be classified as “biomechanical,” Giger used a variety of media to create beautiful, disturbing, and often, confrontational images that blurred the lines between the organic and the industrial.
Although he was best known in the mainstream for his groundbreaking design work on Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror classic, Alien, his art, with pointed surrealistic subversions of religious iconography and human sexuality, encompassed much more than movie monsters. Giger’s work also graced the covers of albums from musical artists as diverse as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Debbie Harry, Danzig, and Celtic Frost. Such was the power of his imagery that when legendary punk rocker The Dead Kennedys included a poster of his 1973 painting Penis Landscape as an insert for their third album, Frankenchrist, it set off a legal firestorm that would land frontman Jello Biafra in court for distributing “harmful matter.”
Devotees of H.R. Giger’s singular aesthetic have a rare chance to see that power close up now through February 2023 thanks to curator Stephen Romano and Ft. Lauderdale’s Vincent Castiglia Gallery. Artist Vincent Castiglia, a lifelong admirer of Giger, whose first exhibition, Remedy for The Living debuted at the H.R. Giger Museum in Switzerland in 2008, organized Homage to H.R. Giger in part to showcase his tribute to the late master, Stations of Embodiment. Castiglia, whose intricate paintings are drawn in human blood, was the first American artist to receive a solo exhibition invitation from the H.R. Giger Museum.
“The opening day of Remedy for The Living with H.R. at the Museum Gallery, I cite that as the best day and experience of my life,” Castiglia says. “Giger was like a god to me growing up, an artistic inspiration of the highest order. It was a dream come true. In addition to being one of the greatest artists of our time, he was like a prophet. Giger was just an unparalleled talent; His work was just so far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. He mediated into this world a body of work singular in vision and execution, the depths of which we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of, that will no doubt reverberate through infinity.”
Exhibition Curator Stephen Romano adds, “While Vincent Castiglia’s art makes stylistic references to surrealism, it is not born out of dreams or fantasy, but rather the artist’s own trauma and ordeal. In that regard, an understanding is required that the story of Vincent’s life is inextricably intertwined with his art, much like outsider artists Henry Darger and Adolph Wolfli. This gives the art itself a level of authenticity. Yet, Vincent’s art, much like H.R. Giger’s, is shamanic in that it attempts to not only purge the artist of his trauma but acts as a cathartic experience for the viewer, as they may bring their own subjective experience to the interpretation of the works and thereby experience a similar healing experience. This, to me, is the noblest aspiration an artist can have … As a curator, I’ve had the opportunity to present Vincent Castiglia’s art in several different settings. What is astonishing and truly notable is that people from all walks of life respond to it emphatically. It is a testament to Vincent’s artistic practice that it brings so much awe and elation to a world deeply in need of healing. This is the artist as an altruist, with unselfish regard for and devotion to the welfare of others, that both Vincent and H.R. Giger perpetuate in their art.”
The exhibition runs now through February 2023 at the Vincent Castiglia Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and coincides with Art Basel Miami, one of the largest art fairs in the world. A catalog is available, with contributions from esteemed writers Michael Bonesteel, author of Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings; curator Robert Cozzolino, whose exhibition Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art recently toured museums in the United States; and Christopher Ian Lutz, whose writings have appeared in Beautiful Bizarre and Riot Material, and who wrote the catalog essay for Morbid Anatomy’s Opus Hypnagogia exhibition.