5 Questions, 15 Images; Christopher Cascio's Art of Precise Compulsion

You don't need a degree in visual semiotics to look at the work of Houston, Texas-based mixed-media artist Christopher Cascio and conclude that he is well-acquainted with obsession. For that matter, a rudimentary reading of Cascio's exhibit titles—Current Obsessions I, Calm Down, Color Sickness, Current Obsessions II—hints at an intellectual and emotional drive that is not entirely elective.

No one ever said art is supposed to be easy—for its creators or for the people who look at it. The abundance of precision detail in the assemblages archived on the Christopher Cascio online trove testify to idea-propelled fixations being physically transformed from force of thought to forceful realization.

If checking out his website or Instagram is too easy a means of consumption for you, the invested art consumer, work your way out to Los Angeles, California, and scuttle down to Wilshire Boulevard for Cascio's new solo show, Full Melt. It's the inaugural exhibition at Maitland Foley—a green-friendly art gallery.

The KIND: Why are so many artists also collectors?

Christopher Cascio: If the artist is like me, then they’re sort of a bookie that also places bets. I'll sell a work of mine and then use the money to buy a work of someone else. If you're making art because you believe in it's power and importance, it's natural that you'd want to own work and live with it. Artists believe in the intrinsic value of art, as collectors do, but it's not that way for the average person. Another reason artists have collections is because of bartering. An artist may not have a lot of cash on hand. There is always (at least in my case) art on hand to trade.

The KIND: How important are multiple obsessions to your work?

Christopher Cascio: It's the overarching theme to all of my work of the past decade. Obsession, compulsion, and hoarding are all a part of my process at a base level. It's not just that multiple obsessions are at play, they also telescope, or nest together like Russian dolls. Making art is an obsession, and within that practice there other tendencies like hoarding cast-off materials and organizing ephemera. I consider myself a "functional hoarder." I try to save things that have significance to me, and not ordinary garbage. To an outsider, it may not appear that way.

The KIND: What is Houston's influence on your perspectives?

Christopher Cascio: I was raised in Houston, and after eight years in San Francisco and Los Angeles, I moved back to work as an artist. That was 12 years ago. Back then, the cost of living here was super low. It’s still cheaper than the east or west coast. There is abundant studio space in the many dilapidated parts of the city, and materials are easy to come by. Houston is massive. Like any massive city, you can get anything here; you might just have to look harder. The same goes for art and entertainment. Houston rewards those who put the work in looking for underground scenes. That said, it’s pretty easy to work unbothered and in obscurity, which is more my speed anyway. There’s also an art market here, but the collectors tend to be conservative, and my art rarely fits their tastes. To put it bluntly—Houston is a great place for me to make art, but a horrible place for me to sell art.

The KIND: Why art?

Christopher Cascio: It’s not a choice; it’s an affliction. If I could do something more stable and lucrative, I would. But it would be dishonest. I see art as a great giver of truth, and I live to create, sometimes to my own detriment.

The KIND: What roles have different drugs played in what you do?

Christopher Cascio: I’ve done a lot of drugs and made a lot of art over the past 20 years. Not all drugs are conducive to getting work done in the studio. You might make good work despite being on heroin, but it’s not gonna make your work better. Psychedelics are a great way to see things differently and can bring about an artistic breakthrough, but would be very problematic on a daily basis in the studio. Doing drugs obsessively is not as productive as making art obsessively. I have transferred a lot of that drug energy over to the art making. As far as drug use in the studio, cannabis and caffeine are the two mainstays that tend to aid the creation of work. Alcohol is intermittently around, but I stop drinking altogether when I'm trying to amp up productivity. It's an energy killer and makes me too sloppy for a lot of the detailed work I do.