Born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Boulder artist Jason García’s paintings still carry with them the edge and ferocity of the city. An accomplished artist on various fronts, García’s art has manifested everywhere from murals on city streets to fine art pieces hanging in downtown galleries. He can also take credit for being one of the founding pioneers of live painting, having toured with Sound Tribe Sector Nine for nearly a decade.
While these days it’s a common sight to see an artist onstage with a band, back when García started, the concept was virgin and unexplored. When he was first approached by a San Francisco band in 1998 to paint onstage, he had never heard of anyone doing such a thing.
“When I first started, all the club managers and stage managers would immediately say, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” García says. “We’d have to have all these meetings with the management and explain to them that I’m not splashing paint all over the stage like Jackson Pollock, that it’s this meticulous sort of process. Eventually they became cool with it. Now it’s not uncommon to see people’s names on flyers for doing live painting. It’s completely blown up.”
García has live painted at venues across the country and the world, having done an estimated 150 shows with STS9 alone.
“There’s been moments when I’ve been on stage with STS9 and there’s all these people behind us having a great time, but what really does it for me is the bond between us, that we’re all doing what we love,” García says. “There’s nothing like it, to be honest.”
Many of García’s paintings were started while he was onstage, but later finished after months of fastidious work in his studio. His most recent work, currently displayed at the Lucid Gallery in Denver, are multilayered explorations of therianthropy, a term referring to the metamorphosis of humans into other animals.
“When I first started exploring the therianthropic concept, human hands and canine jaws began to appear from an articulated abstract geometric background,” García says. “As one embraces or retreats from the unknown, the beastly inner world begins to reveal itself. As a human observer of that inner world, we have the option to attempt to conceal or openly integrate that into the outer experience and express it to others. I think that a lot of my paintings are identifying some sort of unpredictable and solemn anger that can exist within people because they’ve buried something or they have something within them that they haven’t really dealt with.”
While García is developing a painting, he does so without attempting to conceptualize it, allowing it the space to evolve independently of his own agenda.
“Of course there’s intention in the paintings and the process, but if I made an attempt to completely understand the paintings, it would be forced,” García says.
“Most of the time, a painting and the complete meaning and reason for making it reveal itself to me over time. On a certain level, the paintings are an acceptance of having an amicable relationship with the unknown.”
García has been exploring this relationship through art since he was a kid, when he would spend his time drawing armies with his friends instead of playing on the playground. His teachers noticed his talent at an early age, encouraging his parents to nurture his artistic aptitude. He later got a degree in fine arts from UCLA.
While his work could easily be grouped into a variety of different categories — whether surrealist, pop surrealist, visionary, low-brow or transformative — he willfully refuses to label his own work and seems to resist being pigeonholed.
“When you get down to it, that sort of labeling, especially when it’s self-labeling, just isn’t approachable. When someone self-labels their work as visionary or transformative, that can be based on a kind of egocentric perspective revolving around a specific peak experience that’s just not the type of blue-collar experience that everyone has had,” García says. “I’m not saying it’s not powerful, but my observation is that it can tend to be alienating and understood by only an exclusive few.”
Perhaps García’s resistance to being labeled comes in part from his desire to keep his work evolving and free from the restrictive and stagnant impact a label can sometimes have on creativity.
“I think people can get stuck on a look,” García says.
“The artists that I really admire reshape their subject matter and their art over time. If an artist changes the way they look at things and the things they look at, they can create change around them.”
On the Bill
Jason García will be live painting at the STS9 after-party from Dec. 29 through Dec. 31 at Cassleman’s Bar and Venue. Tickets are $25. 2620 Walnut St., Denver, 720-242-8923.