Rupert García, born in French Camp, California, studied painting and received numerous student honors from Stockton Junior College and San Francisco State University, where he was influenced by photorealism. One of the leading artists in the Chicano movement in the Bay area of the late-1960s and early 1970s, García participated in the formation of several seminal West Coast civil rights movement-oriented workshops and collectives, including Galería de la Raza and the San Francisco Poster Workshop, which had been forced off the San Francisco State University campus during the Vietnam War.
After graduating from SFSU, García produced a signature work, a portrait of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara above the slogan "Right On!" García has received numerous awards and honors, including an individual artist fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, President's Scholar Award from San Jose State University, where he has taught in the School of Art and Design since 1988, and College Art Association's Distinguished Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995, he received the National Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award in Art.
The bulk of García's work is housed in the National Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1983, García wrote the first major study of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo entitled Frida Kahlo: A Bibliography and Biographical Introduction.