August 09, 2009

Julio Basanta López, Casa de Dios, Las castillicos de Epila/House of God, The castles of Epila

picture from the website of spanish tv

Life and works

Born in Zaragoza, Spain, Julio Basanta (1933-2018) became a bricklayer and mason.

On a plot of land in the community of Epila, in the neighborhood of Zaragoza, he single-handedly constructed a weekend house, which got a rather special construction with three separate structures and a configuration of parts that look like a castle.

In the middle of the 1960's Basanta began transforming this summer house into an art environment, adding a variety of sculptures that mainly represent deities and demons.

picture local newspaper Goza Zaragoza (march 2010)
the poster in the background says that looking around 

will cost € 50 (listening to some sacred music included) 

His project is named La casa de dios (House of God) or Las Castillicos de Épila (The small castles of Épila).The plural refers to the fact that the house consists of a number of structures referred to as "small castles").
On the walls of the property there are texts which refer to religious themes, what could mean that Basanta was inspired by religious considerations when he began this project.

However, the scenes Basanta created are not gentle or mystical, but rather rude and terrifying. In a comment in a newspaper the creation has been denoted as not being art brut but rather art brutal. 

this picture and the next one: screenprints from
the 2010 video (see documentation)

Basanta's life had several tragic moments. His father left the family when he was very young, and he and the other children were placed in an orphanage. 

In 1977 his brother, who was doing graffiti on a wall, was shot dead by the police, and later, in 2002 this also happened to his only son. In both cases the circumstances surrounding the events remained unclear. An inscription on a wall (the yellow one below) recalls these events.

Considering that already in the mid 1960's Basanta was active in creating the Case de Dios, these events can only partly provide an explanation for the specific characteristics of the site.

At age 85 Basanta passed away on July 8, 2018. It is unclear what the future of this art environment will be.

* Article (2009) on weblog Bajo Mi Boina
* Spanish TV in 2010 had a program about a number of Spanish outsider artists (Outsiders 2); the video on the linked webpage shows from 20' on scenes of Basanta's art environment
* The site got a scholarly review in: Jo Farb Hernandez, Singular Spaces. From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments, Seattle (Raw Vision, SPACES, San José State University), 2013. A short version was published on the website of SPACES
* Entry with pictures on España Bizarra, Tumblr may 2014
* Video by Enrique Guerrero (1'29", You Tube, uploaded april 2015)

first published aug 2009, last revised  july 2018

Julio Basanta López
Las castillicos de Epila (Casa de Dios)
Epila, Aragon, Spain
can be seen from the street,
no regular visiting hours scheduled

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