Thousands of people have seen his work, even if they don't know his name. But now that street artist Manny Castro has stepped forward to claim responsibility for painting the satirical phrase “Tastes Like Hate” on a Torrance, California Chik-fil-A restaurant — riding a tidal wave of controversy over derogatory remarks made by the fast food company's chief operating officer about the status of gays and lesbians — it's unlikely that the L.A.-based artist could escape the scrutiny of fans, detractors, art critics, or the Torrance police even if he wanted to.
“Our investigators are still working the information that they have,” sargeant Steve Jenkinson told the L.A. Times, who reported that as of yesterday, no arrests have been made.
Who is Manny Castro? His first experiments with sidewalk-level design were perfectly legal, and he has plenty of experience grabbing attention. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, he made installations to make the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue resemble an artist's studio, and did similar work for Barney’s New York and Fred Segal boutiques. After moving to L.A., Castro increased his profile when he hung illicit-looking bags of white powder and shiny ruby slippers from telephone wires, but at worst, these toed — rather than crossed — the line of acceptability.
The last truly controversial thing Castro made was in February 2011, when he sprawled a canvas in Runyon Canyon (near the Hollywood sign) that showed Lady Gaga wearing a crown of thorns. In spite of an endorsement from Perez Hilton, the comparison of the pop idol to the Messiah may have riled the kinds of fundamentalists who have now rallied to Chic-fil-A as their go-to anti-LGBT snack spot. More recently, Castro has had a solo exhibition at iam8bit gallery in Echo Park (the ruby slippers and cocaine bags were his very own viral ad campaign for the show), and was part of a group exhibition, “LA MiXTAPE,” at Le Basse Projects in Chinatown.
Talking to the Huffington Post earlier this week, it would seem that mischief was not Castro's primary concern when he authored this latest work of bona fide graffiti. “It's not much of a crime — it's a protest,” he said of his “Tastes Like Hate” image. “I'm against what these people stand for, what this company stands for. They're trying to take away what little rights we already have.”