Rick Garcia's "Colors of Om"
On Friday, November 2nd, Hilton|Asmus Contemporary hosted the opening reception for the COLORS OF OM, an exhibition of paintings and guitars by Miami-based, Cuban-American artist Rick Garcia that runs through Nov. 23.
The vibrant pigments of Garcia's pop-art style exploded from the gallery's walls as collectors admired the rich details and Cuban iconography.
Garcia's exhibition begins with an homage to his father's heritage, the retro Cuban culture of the 1950's, the happy vacation idyll of Havana. Having said that, his paintings of bright, cheerful colors, touch upon the sad and poverty stricken island in his Cuba Con Leche series. Each of the Cuba series is infused with a coffee cup and an image of the island. Garcia talks about the symbolic aspect of the otherwise joyful paintings. He tells us of a Cuba, where food is rationed and people can only buy milk from the government until their child reaches the age of seven. If they want milk after that, they have to buy it at exorbitant prices on the Black Market. The average income per capita in Cuba is $19 per month. Cuba Con Leche (Cuba with Milk) is about milk for everyone, at all times. A land that is prosperous once again.
On the north wall of the gallery hang joyous paintings of beautiful women tanning on the beach, golden haired movie stars, men playing guitars (a la Buena Vista Social Club), 1950's Cadillacs and Chevys. On the opposite wall, these retro symbols of a Cuban era gone by face inward-looking, soul searching, spiritual beings.
LAKSHMI (Goddess of Wealth)
Images of Hindu gods and goddesses and symbols of the chakras dig deep into the subconscious of the irony of happiness and suffering. Shiva and the beautiful Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) look towards the bodies on the beach, the fancy cars, the cups of coffee, offering peace, serenity and true wealth, wealth in every aspect of one's life, to a land that is more often than not devoid of even the basic necessities.
One looks at Garcia's "Lakshmi" and we see the same face of the blonde beauty (a la Rita Hayworth) gracing his painting in "Dream Club" an homage to Johnny's Dream Club, of the 40's and 50's Havana before Castro that was located in the Marianao, not far from the famed Tropicana. "Lakshmi" and the "Dream Girl" have similar qualities, beauty, elegance, open eyes penetrating into the viewer. The only difference being that the "Dream Girl"
is dressed in a beautiful black dress, revealing a hint of breast. She is ready to go out for the evening to Johnny's, ready to be the dream of the men who are there that night in the steamy Havana of the 50's. She is solid, bright, earthly and earthy all at once.
"Lakshmi," on the other hand, is ethereal, a spirit, appearing and disappearing. She is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), the embodiment of beauty, purity, generosity, grace and charm.
Are they really two different women? Or are they the same woman? Are they the dual aspects of all women? The earthly and the ethereal? Perhaps they are the body and the soul emerging through a history and a present that is innate in all of us.
The canvases on the walls are accompanied by Garcia's love of music and his penchant for playing the guitar. Gibson Epiphone guitars painted in Garcia's dazzling colors balance each wall of paintings. One is called "Kiss the Sky," from the Jimi Hendrix song "Purple Haze."
The other, is the OM guitar. Om, the primordial sound, is considered the sound of life. OM is the infinite vibration that resonates through the Universe, providing life and sustenance to everything. OM is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the one constant that unites all of creation at its deepest level. Om is the purifier, the all powerful tool that awakens in us the deepest reflection of Spirit or Universal energy. It is the essence that unites all of us at our most intuitive level.
What appears to be a bright and colorful collection of works, ends up being a profound and redeemable history of a land that has known pain and suffering for much too long. When one looks at the depth and width of a nation, of a people, of one individual, a cup of coffee with milk seems like a simple remedy for healing. But Garcia, in his evocative and playful style, seems to have found the solution with the simplicity of an eastern monk. He says OM, to what is, what was, and what can be again.
COLORS of OM will run through November 23.