Painter Carly Ivan Garcia made a name for himself in the San Francisco art scene early in the millennium curating shows and exhibiting his colorful, neo-abstract style work.  His paintings have become recognized globally thanks to his productivity and regular solo shows and art events like Art Basel week in Miami Beach and Armory Week in NYC.  Warholian correspondent Tim Needles caught up with Garcia recently at the Fountain Art Fair in Manhattan, to ask the artist about his process and further explore the mind of this abstract artist for a new age…

I know you’re participating in the show in Armory week in New York right now at the Fountain Arts Fair with the Arcilesi | Homberg Fine Art Gallery, what do you think of the show?

It’s really good.  It’s got a lot of great art here and I’m stoked. It’s the first time I’m showing here with them which is really cool.

I’m always a little overwhelmed looking at the show as a viewer because it’s so massive.  As an artist, what is it like to show at the armory?

I find that painting, it’s my whole passion.  I like the history, the fact that like some really famous artists like Matisse and Duchamp were actually in the building, I really think it’s an honor to have my work hanging up here you know, it’s historical and it’s right in New York.  I think it’s awesome; it’s really cool to me so I came out here.

The history is amazing, I know.

It really is and the artists that are showing, there is some really high end quality art here and it’s like emerging artists.  I think the whole angle of discovering people it’s really cool. I’ve seen artists go from Fountain to major shows in Chelsea.  There are some major artists here like COPE 2 and Queen Andrea.

Carly Ivan Garcia Studio photos by Michael Cuffe

Artist Carly Ivan Garcia shows the methods used while creating his abstract works in his studio. (photographed by Michael Cuffe)

I find it interesting because you really get a sense from that show what is going on in the art world in terms of newer artists there.  I had a chance to see some of the show via your Instagram earlier, I find as an artist social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is really important.  How have you used it as an artist?

I use it a lot.  I mean I have like 5,000 people following me on Instagram and 5,000 on Facebook.  I actually did a group show at Facebook a few years back with David Choe and Ian Ross.  It was a pretty cool place, it was cool to go into Facebook, I felt like I was in the FBI.

How cool! Could you tell me about one of the piece’s here at Fountain Art Fair specifically?

I have this painting, Novocain, I had a spinal cord injury and I had a bunch of shots down my neck and spine. I got all the shots and I was just really, really happy to not be in pain.  When I got home I wanted to create something cheerful so I painted bears a lot so there’s a bear that’s super stoked and its hot pink.  I spray painted on paper and I drew on these bears.  Then I glued them onto the panel with wheat paste and I put a lot of resin like over 80 different layers on that.  Then I drilled into the piece with screws to contain it and put a big thick frame around it so you know, just do things a little different. 

It sounds like you are a real process artist with all the layering and all the colors.

Yeah and I use colors almost like an illustrator uses a perfect line.  I’m more like Cy Twombly or DeKooning I’m just a painter and it’s going to come out.  I’m that I’m not that concerned about having a straight line and grabbing a ruler, I’m more free with my work.  I just paint and let it come out.  I use the colors to subconsciously bring people to the work, to respond, because I feel that colors and the right layers and the right patterns can really spark an emotion for a collector.  A lot of people that have bought my work, they are really into my color palette so I try to be really wild with the colors and not contain myself to a small palette.

Carly Ivan Garcia Studio photos by Michael Cuffe

Artist Carly Ivan Garcia discusses his process in his Marin, California based studio. (photographed by Michael Cuffe)

It’s kind of more fun that way anyhow.  It seems like a lot of your work has changed and developed over the last few years.  What has moved you to make those changes?

Well, I’ve sold quite a bit of work in the thousand dollar price range and lately I’ve just been wanting to evolve my work.  Now I’m in a position where I can afford to get a lot more paints.  I just want to be the kind of artist that is always evolving.  The last thing I want to be is the guy that paints one thing but I always try to create new and original work but at the same time stay in the parameters of what people expect of Carly Ivan Garcia.

Yeah, it’s a tough balance if you veer too far from what you’ve done because historically, some artists have had a really hard time breaking out of what was expected of them.

Well, I create sketches.  Usually I sketch what I’m going to create and I’ll go back to the sketches for reference for my paintings.  I’ll sketch free flowing, they are very abstract expressionist  then paint it and I’ll use that sketch and I can paint 4 paintings from that one sketch so I’m not veering too far.  I started putting up my sketch work where before I would only show my oil paintings and keep my sketches.  The themes change but my original style doesn’t, it stays consistent.

You know, with your work, it definitely has that abstract impressionist feel but I noticed a few notes of street art, were you influenced by street art at all?

Yeah, I’m not a street artist but I do really believe in the movement.  I curated shows with Shepard Fairey and I’ll do wheat pastes here and there but in the last two years I’ve mostly just been working on larger canvases showing them to a lot of galleries.  I really try to use all mediums, some of my work has a street feel to it and even at Fountain Art Fair I’m wrapped around all these street artists which is cool.  People have always said that my art has an urban feel to it yet its fine art but it’s an oil painting you know.

Carly Ivan Garcia Studio photos by Michael Cuffe

A newer abstract “face” from artist Carly Ivan Garcia. (photographed by Michael Cuffe)

Yeah I had thought a Chamberlain meets Basquiat type of feel.

Yeah, I’ve heard that before but for me I just try to keep creating and staying in my boundaries and being true to my own art.  Not just every year staying the same, you know?  Mainly I’ve just been working large scale with my oils, but I’m definitely an abstract artist.  I’ve had a lot of typography in my work which I know some street artists do and sometimes I try to convey message and things like that. My work at its best catches your eye and it moves throughout the whole piece so a lot of times I feel like the internet doesn’t give it justice.  A lot of people will see my work up close and say like whoa this looks different because I work in layers.  Some pieces take me 6 months to create so I just keep coming back to them.  I’ll leave them and come back to them, that’s kind of my style.

You actually made it in to the art world, which is a feat in itself.  Was there a point at which you kind of realized you had been accepted by the art world to some degree?

Yeah, I think so.  Once I got my rep, I started doing more shows out in NY and then I got a solo show in Miami.  I had 10 paintings in a movie with Ed Harris and he’s a collector of my work.  I went to Miami and I got a show with some real legends in the game on South Beach. That’s when I felt vindicated. I know that my work ethic is pretty much up there with the people that paint a lot.  I paint a lot, 5 to 7 hours and in the first 4 years I stopped working and I was just a full time artist. I’m a very serious and focused artist and I feel I’m just getting started you know.

It’s a pretty intense schedule.

For me it’s like my passion, it’s what I love to do

Carly Ivan Garcia Studio photos by Michael Cuffe

The artist rummaging through the last of his older inventory from years past. (photographed by Michael Cuffe)

I totally understand!  It’s nice to do what your passion is.  I’m an art teacher in high school and I read that you’re dyslexic.   I have found that there is a huge correlation between students with different kinds of learning disabilities that have this penchant for art.  What was your experience like in school?

Well, in school I was a nightmare with any class that wasn’t art.  I was living in a very liberal area in California and I have A.D.D. as well so its, so I’m really good at painting 35 painting at one time and then getting them all done in like 4 weeks.  That’s unheard of but for me to go to the store and not forget to get the detergent, or like finding my keys (laughs) for me, I would have a really hard time. Art was always an outlet.  I was really good, at least I thought I was, and that was the feedback I was getting.  As a young person I always thought that- if you don’t do good in the spelling bee you’re not going to be successful, I just never really believed that.  I put a lot of my focus on my art and just creating and getting good feedback.  My art is different than most peoples’, nobody paints like me, that has to do with the way my mind thinks, you know.  I don’t look at dyslexia as a disability; I look at it as a difference and same with the A.D.D.  In school they were damn near ready to tie my mouth up just to stop talking then I found painting.

That’s terrific.  I know you’re busy with the fair right now but what do you have coming up next?

I’m going to be doing a solo show in July in Manhattan at Art Now, NY. Which is an honor because they have some major artists there like: Banksy, Peter Gronquist, and Joseph Grazi.

That’s terrific, looking forward to it.

The bigger shows are all on the east coast.  I’ll be doing an exhibit called Police in late 2014 which is about law enforcement and protests which Catinca Tabacaru put together.  It’s going to tour around the world for 2 years with Tinca Art NY.  I have some group shows with Arcilesi | Homberg Fine Art with artist like: Vincent Arcilesi and gilf!.  I have work up right now the Ian Ross Gallery in SoMa, San Francisco.

– written/interviewed by Tim Needles – photographs by Michael Cuffe for Warholian

To see more of Garcia’s work, visit his official site here: