LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe
Oct 28 – Dec 4, 2016
The presence of so many cartoon characters, plus, on one painting, the block-printed phrase “Everything Will Be OK,” might suggest that the title of this exhibition (on view through December 4) reflects a state of mind. Along with toy monkeys and a thumbs up sign, various icons of “optimism” turn out to convey a more ambiguous message. A penguin quizzically overlooks the frosted block letters of “COOL,” as they would appear on an ice cream vending machine. Another piece embodies this ambiguity by displaying the words “Hospital,” “Nice People,” “Ice Cream,” and “Litter Box.” Hmmm. On the whole, this show neither wholeheartedly eviscerates nor embraces the jingly optimism of consumer culture.
Some of Garcia’s works lack the compositional integrity to hold together the many disparate images distributed across their surface. Others do satisfy aesthetically, especially when they are structured into either a triadic division or a three-to-two spatial division. Two works repaid longer contemplation for me: Return features an oil-on-canvas depiction of a teddy bear’s head peering over a brick wall. The horizontal brick forms fill the lower third-and-a-bit of the image area, while at the top, four oblique parallelograms balance the whole. Vivid colors impart an urgency that counteracts the perplexity of expression on the teddy’s head. In That’s All a skull, a laughing pig, and a pair of eyeglasses play the main roles, while in an upper corner lurks a strange orange shape, part pumpkin and part ghoul. The whole of this mixed-media piece on paper can be construed as an ironic but elegant memento mori.
While saltshakers and empty beer bottles make repeat appearances, it is the presence of so many paintbrushes in these works that indicates that painting is perhaps the only source of optimism for the artist.