“Fragmented samples of our culture” is how New York artist Eric Parker defines his work which is currently featured in the Modern’s Focus exhibition series. The exhibit showcases 13 large and small-scale paintings from 2007-2010. Parker offers an updated, abstract version of figure and still life painting that has an in your face color palette. Social commentary also appears in his work in the form of oversized text bursting with exaggerated color.
In 1996 Parker earned a B.F.A. at the University of Texas at Austin. Two years later he completed his M.F.A. at State University of New York in Purchase, New York. This contemporary artist has had solo exhibitions at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, the Taka Ishii Gallery in Japan, Gallery Charlotte Moser in Geneva, Switzerland, and many more. His group exhibitions include shows at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, L.I.C. in New York City.
Texting while painting
Eric Parker creates non-traditional portraits with massive heads that emerge from the canvas and float above texts in nostalgic color and form. The artist began combining text and figuration during graduate school at SUNY Purchase according to Andrea Karnes, Curator for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Parker likes painting words and choosing words that fit well. He also observed how Frances Bacon and Pablo Picasso dealt with portraiture in paintings and decided that he wanted to push it in his art. Karnes describes his work such as Think Twice, 2007 as empathetic because he combines graphic, stylized text that is honest with his expressionistic imagery.
Taking it to the edge
Viewers who see Parker’s paintings will notice that he doesn’t leave the edges of the canvas blank. “The text on the sides are things that come to mind and allow me to loosen up,” the artist explains. “The edges are the margin of the artwork. I have to make perfect lines in the painting, and I can loosen up in the margins.” However, Parker didn’t want to be known only as the “text guy”.
In 2010 the artist completed a series of contemporary still lifes. “This is what I would rally against in graduate school and now I’m looking to it,” Parker commented. Karnes states that in these new works, Parker creates his own versions of abundant flowers and fruits arranged on tables and chairs, set against ornate backdrops. His artistic process for these paintings begins with a look to the internet or art history for still life images. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Georges Braque, and Henri Rousseau have been the inspiration for the artist. The image is then drawn before being painted on the canvas. The artist thinks about the background colors first before applying the paint many times to achieve vibrancy. Parker says that growing up in San Antonio influenced the bright colors in his paintings.
The Mayan art present in San Antonio also influenced the artist’s works on paper. With Shelflife, 2007, Parker wanted the piece to seem like a calendar and appear in time. To achieve this, he created a series of lines that he finds to be similar to liner notes or the horizontal lines in a book. The images placed on the lines come from his catalogue of doodles. “I keep looking at them and figure out how they go together,” Parker said. The artist uses a freestyle technique with no erasing before applying precise coats of paint. Each line takes 1½ hours to complete.
Focus: Erik Parker is on view at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth through February 6, 2011. The Focus exhibition series presents works by emerging contemporary artists for the Modern’s Director’s Council, a group that supports acquisitions at the museum. For more information visit www.themodern.org.
by Jeralan Minnick
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