José Carlos Casado approached the creation of his EAF15 project Trade with inspiration from the economic and environmental transformations he observed in the Arctic Circle. In October of 2014, José Carlos was part of an artist residency aboard an exploration ship that sailed to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. During this time, he encountered abandoned mines and deserted ships that have steadily attracted tourists since 2007. As Arctic warming continues, industries are exploring new trade routes and discovering once hidden natural resources.

Each piece of Casado’s sculpture has been purposefully placed to create a mound of mangled colors and shapes. Trade‘s performative aspect engaged a group of participants to carry each individual sculpture from the artist’s studio space to a platform in the park for final display, and draws parallels between the exploitation of natural resources, human labor and the role that human bodies play in that exploitation. “It simulates the transportation systems that take the minerals out of the mines,” Casado shares. “We don’t normally think of the transportation that takes place for a product to reach our hands.” He also notes that consumer products are sometimes made under conditions that do not make themselves apparent to the public, such as child labor or violent conflict that surrounds international commerce.

For Trade, Casado used 3D-image manipulation software to transform his photos of human skin into colorful, explosive imagery. After printing the images directly onto sheets of aluminum, he reshaped the material to create raw diamond-like formations. “They are objects of trade,” Casado expresses. “They represent two artifacts, both precious commodities: minerals and human limbs.” The doubled meaning in Casado’s work gives the project a scope that reaches across a variety of contemporary issues.

Casado hopes that this notion of exploiting the artist’s previously undisturbed location ties together the two different landscapes that he has worked in: Long Island City and Svalbard. Trade also speaks to Casado’s own experience in Long Island City, where his artist studio is located. “Over the seventeen years that I have lived in New York, Long Island City has always been called the next ‘up and coming’ neighborhood, though lately it seems to be seriously changing” he says. “There is construction everywhere. We artists are losing our studios to make room for luxury condominiums, and empty lots are being transformed into mountains of steel and glass.”

This fall, Casado’s sculpture Sacrifice.v02 (2013), was part of the ArtPrize festival, an international competition and exhibition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sacrifice.v02 is one of the main sculptures in Casado’s Sacrifice series–body of work that first appeared as a solo exhibition at The Watermill Center. This series confronts issues of violent political events and the body’s ability to contort in reaction to extreme physical or emotional conditions. As the centerpiece, Sacrifice.v02 is a colorful and vaguely amorphous form of a human body that uses the same 3D imaging technology he has used for Trade. Casado’s two pieces are connected by their explosive aesthetics as well as their direct interaction with political and economic events around the world.