For local muralist Francisco "Enuf" Garcia it's impossible to activism without art -- and vice versa.
The artist, who won the Eric Fischl Vanguard Award at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2008 and spoke at the White House for Youth Summit in Washington D.C. in 2012, will display a new series of socially conscious work at his upcoming gallery exhibition, "Faith, Culture, and Justice."
Running through the month of August, Garcia's solo show debuts with a live painting event during on First Friday, August 1, accompanied with live performances by Shining Soul, DJ Manny Irie, and breakdancing courtesy of the "For the Love" crew. The free, public event will be held from 6 to 10:30 p.m. in downtown Phoenix at Flor De Calabaza, a Latin-American restaurant that took over the space left vacant by Squash Blossom, which shuttered this past spring.
The exhibition, his first independent one, doubles as the beginning of his journey with the International Artist Residency and Arts Festival. Held in Delhi, India, the invitational promotes social change through the arts. Garcia will be in attendance, creating paintings reflecting Indian culture and struggle -- in the same way he has done stateside. The sale of any paintings at this upcoming show will go directly to funding for his missionary trip in November.
This week's debut draws on much of the same politically charged content, stemming from the themes of justice, culture, and faith. The influence of Chicano history and anti-immigration laws are very present, he says, alongside educational issues plaguing America's immigrants, culminating in movements like the DREAM Act.
"Immigrants around the country have been under attack and I feel that this is my way of letting people know I am with them, we are here together and they are not alone," he says of his pieces. "I hope that we can celebrate culture and bring all type[s] of different cultures together through art."
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Garcia found himself subconsciously influenced by Chicano murals and the graffiti culture in and around the streets. He refers to his hometown as "the mural capital" for a long period, which followed him from kindergarten, when he remembers seeing his first mural, to his first graffiti pieces in Phoenix and L.A. over two decades ago.
From graffiti and wordplay he moved to acrylics and oils, working on smaller pieces while staying true to his constant message: sharing his faith and humanitarian spirit through paint. Whether drawing depictions of known cultivates of change like Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez or scrawling Bible scriptures and politically charged questions, his work is eye-catching and thought-provoking, which is every bit his intent.
Garcia was an open opponent of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, the "show-your-papers" law which arguably used racial discrimination to question a person's immigration status. Garcia participated in "SB1070: An Artist's Point of View," a protest exhibition held at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center weeks before the law when into effect in 2010. His piece, Who's the illegal now? No SB1070 gained national attention, using paintings of indigenous people to make his point.
That motivation for activism stems from roots in guerrilla and revolutionary art, he says, citing a brief history from cave art in Spain to murals on Mexican pyramids. He refers to the popular fresco technique, which came to the western world courtesy of Europe, and was used to enhance public propaganda and anti-government posters. He explains that -- according to studies he's read -- murals and public works of art encourage students to continue their education, even pursuing higher learning.
"It also beautifies the city, enriches our society with culture, and brings awareness of social justice -- if done right. It is our duty as muralist[s] to be socially responsible," he says. "People are becoming aware that we are the ones that need to stand up and rise. .... I am inspired by Phoenicians and their movement for social justice. I can see Phoenix creating more beautiful art -- art with more content over style. .... Painting a mural that cultivates minds is like planting seeds in soil: you won't know what fruit will grow, only time will tell."
It can be daunting to constantly look at the big picture, to consider what impact your art might have before its even been finished. But painting a large-scale work has physical implications, too: particularly in the Valley's soaring three-digit summers. Painting in different seasons has its challenges, Garcia admits, but the finished product, like those found on walls (or in galleries) around Phoenix are more rewarding.
"I am the curator of my own art in any city I paint in," he says. "The city becomes my canvas. I want everyone to be able to see it in person, free of charge."
Opening reception is from 6 to 10:30 p.m. on First Friday, August 1, at Flor De Calabaza, 705 North First Street. The work will remain on view through Sunday, August 31. The event is free and and open to the public. Visit the restaurant's Facebook page or call 602-750-2478 for details.