New Mexico-based artist Eric García presents solo exhibition Aim High at Ogden Contemporary Arts and unveils a community mural, the culmination of a two-month residency at OCA.
Eric J. García: Aim High
May 5–July 16, 2023
opening reception: May 5, 6-9 pm
Ogden Contemporary Arts, Ogden, Utah
New Mexico artist Eric García is known for using history and a graphic style to create political art that confronts our understanding of the present. For Aim High, his solo exhibition at Ogden Contemporary Arts Center in Ogden, Utah, the artist presents two interactive digital projections and a series of ink drawings from an ongoing series that originated during a prior residency in Roswell, New Mexico. For this series, the artist explores sci-fi concepts like space, aliens, and invasion through the historical lens of colonialism and expansionism.
García’s new digital projections are video games that can actually be controlled by visitors. Space Invaders imitates the popular sci-fi arcade game of the same name, and was created in collaboration with Professor Rafael Fajardo from the University of Denver in Colorado. The classic alien icons from the original game are replaced by colonial symbols created by García, such as knights on horseback, cannons, cathedrals, etc. Several of these icon designs are repeated in García’s ink drawings for the show, which also reference other known sci-fi invaders and historic explorers.
Discharged is a complex game created in collaboration with Steve Ciampaglia and Kerry Richardson of Plug-In Studio. The concept for the game deals with how veterans navigate everyday life after war, and was created in response to first-person shooter games that glorify the experience of combat. The player guides the game’s central character through life after combat, feeling alienated and unsure as they navigate the VA hospital, school, work, and other elements of “normal life.”
Aim High was a metaphorical and literal slogan for the U.S. Air Force created in the 1980s and revamped in 2010 to inspire airmen to always push themselves to new heights. García uses the slogan in a literal sense pertaining to the objective of Space Invaders as well as the deeper concepts explored in Discharged. As an Air Force veteran and also a Chicano, García’s personal experiences fueled this particular body of work and exhibition theme. The artist explains:
Both my heritage and my experience in the military have had a huge influence on this body of work and my work in general. I am the conquered and the conqueror. I am the colonized and the colonizer. I am a descendant of the Indigenous lands north of the Rio Grande conquered and colonized by Spain and then by the United States. Like many generations of Black and brown people have done before, I enlisted in the occupying military with the hopes of opportunities within the empire. After awakening from the “American dream,” I now use my privilege to deconstruct our country’s false narratives.
García is OCA’s 2023 Artist-in-Residence; he arrived in Ogden, Utah on March 1 and has since utilized OCA Center’s Studio Lofts to complete this new body of work. As part of his residency, García spearheaded a community mural project that will also be unveiled at The Monarch in conjunction with his exhibition opening.