An internet search of artist, Rick Garcia, will show only the lightest of online footprints revealing his website, a couple of YouTube videos, and his work at C. Parker Gallery in Greenwich Connecticut. Yet Garcia has created for some of today’s most highly visible organizations, corporations, events, and causes.
His work has garnered worldwide attention with images that are sometimes joyous and other times heart-rending. He is prolific. His palette is vibrant, often reflecting his love of the tropics, and with an economy of line he displays great skill in illustration. He has an approachable manner and an easygoing way of expressing himself. In other words, he’s pretty cool.
Rick Garcia has worked three times as the official artist for the GRAMMY Awards, setting the look and feel of the live ceremonies and gracing the covers of the organization’s program covers, CDs, posters, and apparel. In 1998 and 2003 he was commissioned by The United Nations Postal Administration to bring awareness to the dangers facing the rainforest and its inhabitants. The stamps he created earned his series the title of “most beautiful stamp series of 2003”.
Garcia was chosen as “Absolut Artist of the 90s” for the brand’s popular vodka ad campaign with Absolut Garcia, and a second submitted piece, Absolut Electric, went on again to draw worldwide attention. His work has included portraiture of Destiny’s Child, Ricky Martin, Coldplay, Santana, Celia Cruz, Black Eyed Peas, Imogen Heap, and Kanye West. And still, very little will you find about him on the internet. Word of mouth is powerful.
His story begins back at the Art Institute of Miami where he studied drawing and painting. Soon Garcia was making a living from his illustrations. His work came to the attention of the creators of Miami Vice whereby he was commissioned to create a mural. His work was also used for interior scenes of the show. His artistic trajectory was set.
In the mid-nineties, Garcia was represented by the gallery/agent Arica Hilton, who suggested that he might look into creating images to direct attention to endangered animals. His love and affinity for animals and nature made the job a perfect fit.
One of this writer’s favorite pieces from the series is the vibrant yet heartbreaking, Almost Gone.
“This was at the time when I was working with regular brushes and airbrush and a level of surrealism was often used as a key component of my work,” explains Garcia. “The tiger is looking at the viewer and as the body of this animal nears the rear, less and less remains until the tail portion becomes birds flying off into the sky. The same tiger is seen above in a playful mood to symbolize an era of less intrusion by human beings.”
The endangered animals series eventually became limited-editions and lead to a licensing deal with Milton Bradley turning two of the images into puzzles. The work also grabbed the attention of Rocky Aoki, founder of Benihana. Aoki donated his Rolls Royce for Garcia to cover with a painting of a tiger and leopard.
Garcia reflects, “The car, myself, and Mr. Aoki were interviewed on the Today Show in New York and later the car was put up for auction. This series of artwork also lead to a commission by the United Nations Postal Administration to create three new paintings for use as postage stamps, this time concerning the rainforest and its endangered inhabitants.”
Garcia is passionate about animals, the environment, and worthy causes, telling me that there are an abundance of issues and charities which all need attention and resolution. He’d love to be involved in a number of them.
“I helped with three charities this year, and last year I designed and printed t-shirts to raise money for the children killed in Florida at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School.”
Being a three time official artist for the GRAMMY Awards was something Garcia describes it as a “very special honor”.
“The opportunity to attend rehearsals, meet the stars and get a great behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put on this show was fantastic. On each occasion I enjoyed the collaboration with then V.P. Rob Senn in brainstorming as to what each event should look like in print form which also led to influencing the look of the broadcast.”
The art for the 40th GRAMMY Awards in 1998 has the word ‘GRAMMY’ embossed, and features the award making a splash in a pool. The number ’40’ is blended into the artwork, with musical instruments, notes, architecture, and clouds filling the scene.
The 1999 GRAMMY work was designed to feature the history of recording from its earliest time to the digital era. The music sheet depicted is the opening to Layla and the time signature stamp is 4/1 for the 41st GRAMMY award ceremony. The 2001 GRAMMY depicted a more abstract approach and the original artwork includes gold leaf on the canvas for the award.
One of Garcia’s most recent projects is RAG13, a project exploring how society is being affected by diminishing privacy, increased data mining and tracking, and surveillance recognition. While we as global citizens recognize, and complain about, these intrusions into our private life we also lovingly embrace technology and willingly share our likes, dislikes, opinions, family photos, vacation plans, and dinner choices.
The artwork for RAG13 has taken a different tack from that of Garcia’s earlier work and utilizes a great deal of symbolism to illustrate how we all wish to be seen and garner our 15 minutes of fame, but at a stunning cost.
“It’s an interesting, complex, and enormous matter affecting everyone because it involves two things: a weird juxtaposition of vehemently keeping our privacy and at the same time giving it away,” said Garcia. “This collection of paintings and prints illustrate our modern world of surveillance, suspicion, and tracking where we have all become suspects and recognized as binary numbers.
“The artwork is colorful and appealing with an underlying message which now has become an impossible situation to turn around. Art has always depicted literal everyday scenes and so these works do the same except with a twist using lots of symbolism.”
And there are plenty of symbols here. The bodies of the children and adults are missing pieces which reflect the sacrifice of certain rights, and every piece of artwork contains a dark figure of authority identified by three stripes appearing on the figure’s shoulder. Walls symbolize restrictions, binary numbers appear as reminders that we have been reduced to code. Garcia refers to this modern society as “the new order”.
Today Garcia creates using a variety of mediums including screen printing to further develop his attraction to mixed-media. He is also considering painting more guitars––made popular after his Absolut Electric customization, and he is working with 3D lenticular art. Fine examples of his newest works include Jerry Garcia Skull, and Bowie Ziggy Spilt.
“As an artist with a strong desire for exploration and growth, I tend to venture into other areas more now than before. I am capable of easily learning how to use tools and materials and so I will find myself constructing, building, or in the case of one project, building an 1800 sq. ft. octopus with inner lighting out of fiberglass for a restaurant I designed for Benihana. I like to jump from pen and ink, to sketching on my iPadPro, to pastels, and color pencils over a screen print, and sometimes add fabric to a canvas to paint over that as well,” said Garcia.
Tiffany Benincasa, Principal of C. Parker Gallery, had the following to say about Rick Garcia and his work.
“Rick is fascinating, incredibly accomplished and he has a heart of gold. Listening to him talk about his love for art and music is contagious. You want to visually soak up all of his works and hear all about his experiences over a long lunch. His journey as an artist and a person is a story we all should hear.
Rick continuously pushes the parameters of his previous work, willing to explore new ideas and unexplored boundaries. He is always on the go, but purposefully finds time to support organizations that make a difference in our world. He is a fantastic artist with a creative mind, such a great person. Collaborating with Rick has been a lot of fun and we are looking forward to sharing another exciting exhibition with him in the Spring, 2020.”
In closing, Rick Garcia leaves us with these words: “Art spins in a fantastic and crazy world. I’ve experienced how people see art and what art means to them, and the most humbling and powerful result of any artist’s creation is when it affects someone in their heart.” ¨