Del Vaz Projects is pleased to present Low, the Los Angeles solo exhibition debut by poet, painter, and graffiti artist John Garcia. With Low, Garcia, who has become known for his highly-choreographed and spatially-coded text-based interventions on marginalized urban infrastructure and detritus, continues his quest towards the structural limits of language, the body, and architecture through a contemplation on Devotion, not only the act but also the word itself.
Through a wide-ranging practice that includes music, figurative painting, graffiti, and writing, Garcia attempts to divide the psychic and psychological experience of desire into two vials—that of pleasure and that of poison. For Garcia this endeavor is not only a way of tackling a contemporary prejudice of the emotional and contempt for love, but also an effort to arrest and exorcize its agony.
In Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson charges this agony to the existence of boundaries, specifically to the boundary of flesh and self between lover and the beloved. “It is the edge separating my tongue from the taste for which it longs that teaches me what an edge is,” she writes. For Carson, the real subject of love poems is not the beloved but rather the indissoluble boundary between lover and beloved, the edge, “that hole.” If the edge teaches the tongue what desire is, then what better than a vial of poison to lose the edges of your body?
Unlike the love poems Carson is alluding to however, Garcia’s poems are not only an attempt to reach the edge between lover and beloved, but also an endeavor to reach the edge of language itself. This analogous exploration to the limits of language and one’s self is foundational to Garcia’s praxis, whose text-based interventions never exceed four or five words. At times words are left isolated and at times Garcia tightly stitches them back together into bricolage poems that potentiate instability and fragility in various structural systems, whether linguistic, spatial, or corporeal.
Garcia begins composing his trance poems by lifting from a word bank notebook and responding to the surface of his chosen intervention, be it shower wall (SANITY WASH); agricultural observation tower (COLD FIRES); or gallery wall (BODY EXILE). Here, the units of composition are words, not phrases. Throughout these works, Garcia often employs a manipulated forced perspective, or reverse anamorphic technique, where words appear flat and unaffected from afar but become stretched, enlarged, or fractured as a viewer approaches them.
For Low at Del Vaz Projects, Garcia has composed three poems, each painted on oversized mirror, on the subject of (chronic) devotion:
PRETENSE OF JOY
Encompassing the entirety of the gallery floor, Garcia has installed a broken-tile mosaic with the word DEVOTION. From the gallery’s exterior, the word appears evenly distributed across the floor, but then begins to deviate, retreating away as one advances towards it. “Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do,” writes Carson.
With Low, Garcia asks of us: What do we really know of devotion? Devotion doesn’t want to be faithful and steadfast. Devotion wants to be stretched. It wants to be shattered and pieced back together. Devotion wants to slip away as you get closer. Devotion wants to run, and wants you to run after it.