Leo Castañeda (b. Cali, Colombia 1988) is an artist and game designer living in Miami, FL. Fusing gaming, painting, virtual reality, drawing, and sculpture, Castañeda's work reimagines the racial, socio-economic, and posthuman anatomies that govern mythologies and societal systems across our globalized world.
Castañeda received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2010 and MFA from Hunter College in 2014. Residencies include SOMA Mexico City attended through the Cisneros Foundation (2014); "Of Games III" at Khoj International Artists Association in New Delhi India (2015); Bronx Museum AIM Program (2017), and Oolite Arts Studio Residency (2018–2019). He is a recipient of South Florida Cultural Consortium Visual/Media Artists Fellowship, Locust Project Wavemaker Grant, and Oolite Arts Ellies Creator Award.
Exhibitions and screenings span Bronx Museum of the Arts (2017), Espacio Art Nexus (2017), Frost Art Museum (2012), Wolfsonian Museum (2019), Children’s Museum of Manhattan (2019), IndieGrits Festival (2017), Borscht Film Festival (2017), and more. Castañeda’s work has been featured in Killscreen, Rhizome, El Nuevo Herald, El Pais, and Vice.
Castañeda currently a professor of 3-D animation at Florida International University and New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL.
Using the language and structure of video games, my work generates multimedia worlds that explore the semiotic bounds of identity, progression, and interaction.
My practice encompasses film, video games and mixed-media installations as well as drawings and paintings that evoke othered worlds between abstraction and speculative fiction. The alien and familiar converge across feedback loops between analog and digital works: paintings and sculptures become forms, textures and blueprints within digital environments just as virtual spaces become references for IRL compositions.
The surreality of my childhood growing up in Colombia and visiting family the Brazilian Amazon largely functions as a point of departure for my world-building, with level design influences then ranging from Latin-American Surrealism & Abstraction (Roberto Matta, Agustín Fernández, Maria-Thereza Negreiros) to 19th-Century Romantic Painting (John Martin, Caspar David Freidrich) and Sci-Fi Literature (LeGuin, Butler, Borges) as well as epic video games, anime mythologies, & blockbusters (Dragon Ball, Evangelion, Journey, Shadow of the Colossus).
My works are organized under the linguistic structures in video-games, where words such as “bosses,” “levels,” “items,” and “stages” recall hierarchies of power throughout economic, cultural, and religious infrastructures. Deconstructing these political terms for formal and narrative exploration, my practice reimagines representations and modes of engagement with these figures.