21 Apr Aim High
New Mexico Artist Eric J. García Completes OCA Artist Residency with Solo Exhibition at OCA Center & Community Mural at The Monarch
Exhibition Dates: May 5th – July 16th | Opening Reception: May 5th, 6-9pm | Mural Unveiling: May 5th
Ogden, UT (April 11, 2023): This May, Ogden Contemporary Arts presents a solo exhibition for New Mexico artist Eric J. García, the non-profit’s 2023 Artist-in-Residence. García, who arrived in Ogden for his residency on March 1st, has utilized OCA Center’s Studio Lofts to further develop specific concepts within his work, particularly around immigration and the term “alien” as presented in various contexts. His completed body of work is revealed for his solo exhibition, Aim High, at OCA Center on May 5th. The show opens with a public reception from 6-9pm during Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll, and will remain on display through July 16th. 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. The mural was created with input and direct participation from local residents, leading to an environmentally themed piece that is specific to Utah.
García is known for using history and a graphic style to create political art that confronts our understanding of the present. For Aim High, he presents two interactive digital projections and a series of ink drawings from an ongoing series that originated in Roswell, New Mexico. For this series, the artist explores sci-fi concepts like space, alien, and invasion through the historical lens of colonialism and expansionism. “Mixing this idea of “colonial/historical aliens” with popular science fiction imagery for satirical fun, we can start making the connections between conquest and the westward expansion of the Americas, to the exploration of outer space, and the occupation of other people’s spaces,” says García.
The digital pieces, which will be projected on OCA Center’s east and west walls, are video games that can be controlled by visitors. The first is titled Space Invaders, which imitates the popular sci-fi arcade game of the same name. This piece was created in collaboration with Rafael Fajardo, a professor at the University of Denver in Colorado who specializes in Science Fiction game design and socially conscious video games. 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.
The second projection piece, Discharged, is a more complex game created in collaboration with Steve Ciampaglia and Kerry Richardson of Plug-In Studio, a socially conscious new media art collective. 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 + literal slogan for the U.S. Air Force created in the 1980’s but 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 has 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. Drawing on my experiences and cultural history, I create site specific installations, murals, hand printed posters and political cartoons. By reexamining forgotten stories in an accessible and visually striking way, my work can be a tool with which to share, learn from and spark critical dialogue. Specifically, I make art to prevent historical amnesia and cultural erasure.
Eric García is the second artist to participate in OCA’s AIR program, which invites influential artists to the area who are interested in expanding their studio practice and engaging with the local environment. “We are so pleased with how Eric García has connected with the Ogden community throughout his residency,” says OCA Executive Director Venessa Castagnoli. “I think the concepts he explores for Aim High will resonate with the constituents of the Ogden area and Northern Utah, while his direct engagement with the public has exemplified our goals for the AIR program. His mural project was created by and for the community, and we look forward to having his work on display permanently here in Ogden for future generations to enjoy.”
García’s mural is located on the east side alley of The Monarch building; its design was formed based on input gathered during Open Studio Nights throughout García’s residency. The artist invited local youth programs to help apply paint to the mural, and also held several Open Paint Days inviting the general public to participate in its completion.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Eric J. García uses history and a graphic style to create political art that confronts our understanding of the present. Using sculpture, mixed media installations, murals, printmaking and his controversial political cartoons, he aims to challenge his viewers to question sources of power and the whitewashing of history. After receiving his BFA with a minor in Chicano studies from the University of New Mexico, Eric García went on to complete his MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a core member of the printmaking collective, Instituto Gráfico de Chicago, one of the newest members of the Justseeds Cooperative, a part of the emerging Veteran Art Movement, and is a dedicated teaching artist. García has exhibited nationally and his work can be found in the collections of the National Museum of Mexican Art, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
ABOUT OGDEN CONTEMPORARY ARTS AND OCA CENTER
Ogden Contemporary Arts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates and shares globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advanced arts programing in Ogden, Utah. OCA’s vision is to inspire local and regional artists through active involvement with the international contemporary art community. OCA strives to be viewed as a credible and internationally respected arts organization while empowering artists with the facilities, environment and experience to excel in their medium and enrich their lives.
OCA Center is Ogden Contemporary Arts’ flagship exhibition space located in the historic Monarch building at 455 25th Street in Ogden. The multi-use space opened in November 2020 after a significant gift from the Dr. Ezekiel R. & Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation. The Center’s main gallery is titled the “Arts Garage,” named after the building’s historic origin as a 1920s industrial parking garage for the neighboring Bigelow Hotel. OCA Center also includes a digital art room, second floor gallery space, and two artist lofts that can be utilized as additional exhibition space or as studios for visiting artists.
OCA would like to thank the following donors for supporting the organization’s general operation and programming, making this exhibit possible: Weber County Ramp, Lucky Slice Pizza, Utah Office of Tourism, George S and Dolores Doré Foundation, Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation, Utah Division of Arts and Museums and Ogden City Arts
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