All in La Famillia-Moises Garcia at SPAG

The advantage of living in a typical El Paso family if you are a portrait painter is that there is no shortage of subject matter. Parents, brothers, sisters aunts uncles and cousins are usually found in abundance. Moises Garcia makes his living as a graphics designer, but with prismacolor pencil he paints his life and the life of his family. His pictures, currently on view at SPAG, are mostly untitled so I didn’t know until I asked that the sensitively drawn portraits along one wall all came from his immediate family.
He begins, he told me, with photography to get the basic layout down, but since they are family members, he can go back again and again to get the face just right. What is striking about these are the sensitivity shown. He reveals, rather than bestows, the dignity inherent in his family members. Many portraits in general tend to be only of the person seated or standing. Here Moises has drawn each one engaged in an activity: his mother chopping vegetables, another reading. The simplicity of the drawing and the figure with the one object set against the bare illustration board makes for a quiet dignity. I may be stretching a point here, but it occurred to me these are not unlike retablo figures-the Saint with one identifying characteristic-St Catherine and her wheel for instance.
In another room Moises has a series of large acrylic canvases filled with intense faces. Each canvas is painted in primarily one color, in one case blue, another l purple, using different tones and layering lighter and lighter swirls looking up close a bit like a topographical map. These are very strong pieces, and as they are new, one wonders whether this portends a new direction.
Garcia has rented the whole gallery for what is essentially something of a walk-in brochure for the different types of work he does. There is graphic design type commercial work, straight-forward portraits to show possibilities for commissions. One room is filled with self-portraits which amusingly or horrifyingly depending on your sensibility reveal a frustration that makes the character in Munch’s The Scream look like he’s having a good day. The difference of course in that one feels Moises will probably be fine the next day, but Munch’s figure means it forever. In any case Garcia portrays himself with a vice crushing his head, spiders coming out of his mouth, trapped behind paper among other things. In another room he portrays hikmself in a bit more straight-forward manner. He often uses foreshortening, sometimes extreme foreshortening in his figures. He told me he does this to create a bit of action in the drawing. He said he tried doing this in more accurate proportion and found it produced something “a little boring”. Regardless, Moises Garcia shows here he has a nice eye, a great skill with a pencil and here provides a generally appealing show.-David Sokolec

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