Erik Parker: Adapt
Gallery Faurschou Copenhagen
28 January – 17 April 2010
Faurschou CPH is happy once more to be showing a solo exhibition of the work of the intense young American painter Erik Parker.
Unmistakable painting style
It is now around a decade since Erik Parker had his international breakthrough with his unmistakable painting style, characterized by a graffiti-like formal idiom, its strong colour palette with wild arabesque figures, the Rorschach-like symmetrical mirrorings, as well as a flood of words and sentence fragments taken from the painter’s everyday life and the surrounding subculture.
In his new paintings, with turbo-charged energy and the same explosive colouring as always, Erik Parker has plunged into a more figurative, sculptural style where he places human physiognomies at the centre.
In a stylistic mix combining Rococo, acid-rock posters, Surrealism, animation and the comic strip, these figures have goggle eyes and bodies that evoke associations with cyborgs – mixtures of man and machine. They seem stripped of skin so that one can see into the insides of the figures, where skull and bones are made up by a complex web of small gadgets, colourful sticks and patterns that recall mechanics, nuts and bolts and clamps. A comment on recent biotechnological research on the mapping of genes, cloning, and transplants between humans and animals?
Perhaps – but not only that. Erik Parker’s figures are also a kind of mental portraits that express emotions and states of mind. With titles like Stuck, Loot, Turn Down and Adapt, all of which are incorporated as an important element in the creation of meaning on the surface of the painting, the pictures are equally expressions of internal emotions and vulnerability.
Parker’s pictures mix humour and seriousness – there is something touching about these figures that appeals to the compassion of the viewer amidst all the candy-coloured ornaments and “groovy” patterns that surround them.
Erik Parker has become a more mature painter. On the whole it is as if he now relates freely to painting in the more formal sense; to form, surface, line and colour. In several of the works in the exhibition he works with the diptych and spreads his familiar game of mirror-image figuration over two canvases. Viewed in the light of the many physiog¬nomies on the other canvases, the space between the canvases becomes a central axis which in places assumes the character of a spinal column. At the same time the axis is what forces the artist to switch between the right and left hemisphere of the brain in the painterly reflection of the subject.
Parker’s painting draws on references to widely differing periods and painters in the history of art – as well as to graffiti, animation and Street Art. There is a direct affinity with the comic-strip-inspired energy of American painters like Carroll Dunham, Philip Guston and Peter Saul, but the rich detail and complexity of the figures make equally clear references to the Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Archimboldo and his visually playful portraits of people made of branches, fruit, flowers and fish. The masks, the distortions and the existential undertone also incorporate modernist icons like Picasso and Bacon. There are lyrical features and arabesque interlacings that are fine – almost decorative – thus also turning the thoughts to Botticelli’s La Primavera.
Parker draws in visual components as a composer combines rhythms and notes. His pictures are trippy and funky, humorous and ironic, grotesque and touching, surrealistic and baroque – as is our reality in the year 2010.s, where they curate exhibitions in collaboration with some of the world’s best artists, curators, museums and galleries. Admission to the exhibitions is free.
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