by Dilpreet BhullarMar 06, 2023
American artist Erik Parker creates figurative paintings of disembodied, twisted heads in vivid colours that are vivacious to look at, but often metaphorically narrate stories and sub-contexts of various cultures - ranging from some of the simpler aspects like music and memes to politics and conspiracy theories. His work seems to be deeply influenced by counterculture and images from magazines, cartoons and the internet in general.
Parker’s references span from the deep and dark corners of the carefully mannered art world to the more esoteric branches of culture such as inglorious comic books, unsung hip-hop heroes, and freakish, hallucinatory imagery from the drug-fuelled political past. His amalgamation of all these elements creates something visually guerillistic; an optical colloquialism through his use of colour and seemingly endless dimension-bending shapes. While the compositions are intricately worked on, the combination of a graffiti and a collage-type approach adds an element of fun to the otherwise fragmented visual imagery of his work.
For his latest work WOKE, a hand-painted wooden sculpture, the artist collaborated with Hong Kong-based creative AllRightsReserved (ARR). Being the artist’s first ever three-dimensional sculpture, the product was launched by ARR globally on November 1, 2019. The sculptures were released in a limited edition of 25 + 5 AP, each bearing the artist’s signature and numbered certificate of authenticity.
About his collaboration with AllRightsReserved for this project, Parker said, “I am super excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with ARR on my first-ever cultural edition! I am a huge fan of their projects. I really like what they’ve done with other artists whose work I admire, like Nina Chanel Abney, Yue Minjun, and KAWS, so I am stoked to get the chance to collaborate with their team.”
Parker started making paintings on pyramid-shaped canvases a few years ago. “I am drawn to the pyramid largely because it is a universally recognised shape that we all can relate to immediately,” he explained. “Pyramids reference ancient history and are the first abstract artworks. They also touch on the futuristic.”
While Parker had made similar triangular paintings, which were exhibited earlier at his show New Soul at Mary Boone’s Fifth Avenue gallery, it is only now that he built on his style to create a pyramid sculpture. Since the piece has five layers stacked one on top of the other, any change in the placement of each layer adds an additional element of fragmentation to his already fragmented forms.
The title of the work befits the concept underlying his sculpture and his general practice, which references the dark side of pop culture and the societal landscape, urging people to stay aware or rather stay woke!
Parker has received several awards over the course of his career, including the Rema Hort-Mann Foundation Grant (1999), Rose Scholarship (1997) and the Durhust Family Scholarship (1997) among others. His works have been showcased in galleries and museums across the world.