Leo Garcia: My Alien Abduction
Highways Performance Space Gallery
Every now and then an artist pops above the horizon line with a private cosmology like the late Mati Klarwein whose Aleph Sanctuary in the 1970s was a marvel of jewel-like paintings. An artist like Alex Grey known for his visionary painting and his “Chapel of Sacred Mirrors” currently resides in Chelsea, New York. For one month right in our very midst and showing at the Highways Performance Space Gallery through March 5 is a similar iconoclast, the multi-tasking cultural producer and artist Leo Garcia, presenting “My Alien Abduction.” First conceived as a performance piece (authored and performed by Garcia) it is also now an engaging exhibition, a small visual feast that is both evidence and a pantheon of a fictive legacy based on a real event that happened to the artist. Born and raised in the Southwest, Garcia is no stranger to abductions, cattle mutilations and the strange happenings that I too, having lived there, have been exposed to. Lets just say his experience was a close call. The larger metaphor in this show is what has been culturally abducted from the Southwest in the past centuries by the onslaught of European culture and what his own family has lost.
“My Alien Abduction” comprises 14 digital photographs and several assemblages that are the source material for the photos. The striking and dense image Canon hangs in the entry to the gallery and introduces the viewer to a Byzantine hierarchy of monkey Gods and Attendants, and Garcia himself who is central to the mythos being created and is identified wearing the mask of Zozobra. Those familiar with Santa Fe, New Mexico, will immediately recognize Zozobra as the early 20th-century figure from a ritual created by European American settlers who intentionally or unintentionally created this character to wipe away the “gloom” of the year but instead co-opted the local indigenous and Hispanic rituals and wiped them away. Or in another sense, abducted them.
If the myth of power is in part sustained by taking, or abducting what is owned by someone else and then making it your own and claiming it, then Garcia’s pantheon literally apes a hierarchical power structure that is human in invention. Walking through the small gallery is a grouping of portraits revealed by their titles: Baby Prince, Bishop, Fool, Knight, Princess, Soldier. There are enigmatic pieces like the Monkey Abducted. One almost wishes for a didactic wall panel that tells the narrative of this wickedly intriguing and elusive narrative.
As photographs made with Photoshop, they veer wildly into visual textures and layering, growing bolder and more sophisticated as the series develops. They are not subtle, this is to be sure, and Garcia is totally unafraid to use color and does so with gusto. For that matter, so did Klarwein, the aforementioned painter who, like Garcia, understood how to create a visual meta-narrative.
Leo Garcia: My Alien Abduction
Now up through March 30, 2017
Highways Performance Space Gallery @18th St. Arts Center
1651 18th St., Santa Monica, CA 90404
1/2 block north of Olympic Blvd.