Artist Erik Parker Talks New Book and New Work



“In nearly every painting we seem to be witnessing the emergence of some extravagant freak of nature or perhaps consciousness—a hallucination of the first order.” —Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Skira Rizzoli just unveiled the first retrospective look at the irreverent and boisterous artwork of painter Erik Parker, which will be accompanied by a major exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. With color at the DNA of his art, we spent some one-on-one time with Mr. Parker and found out a little bit about his vibrant world.

Life+Times: What did you learn about yourself while putting this book together? What was the process like?
Erik Parker
: I learned that I kept a pretty decent archive over the years, so that made most of the work on my end a lot more manageable. I was really fortunate to have a strong team at Rizzoli and an incredible designer Roy Brooks at Fold Four who was really dialed in and met all the deadlines on time. The whole process was really smooth.

L+T: With deep roots in alternative comics, illustration, and graffiti, your work bridges underground culture and the pop-surrealism movement. When people ask you to describe your aesthetic, how do you normally answer this question?
: Populist blue-collar painting.

L+T: What do you want your readers to learn about you and your craft from your book?
: I want the readers to have the opportunity to look at a lot of pictures with limited writing, and I think it’s important to have my work organized into categories to make sense of it all. At the end of the day, I want the readers to see the evolution of an artist who embraces change.

L+T: Clearly color is important to you in your work – but does the use of extreme color translate into your home? If so – how? Why?
: Ha. Not really, my house is filled with kids, so it has “Barbie” color. It’s completely scattered, but we have a lot of art.

L+T: The book encompasses 256 pages. Were there any pieces left on the cutting room floor that you now regret were not included?
: Funny enough, no, nothing that I can think of. I am lucky that I was able to include all the pieces that made sense for the book.

L+T: Are there central issues in your work that you often like to explore? If so, what are they?
: Set aside the formal issues, some of the subject matter has been about conspiracy theory, obscure punk rock, hip-hop, underground hip-hop, UFOs, the Illuminati, the death penalty, genocide, Bloods and Crips, soccer hooligans, Rastafarianism, addiction, etcetera…you name it, I can paint about it if it interests me.

L+T: What are you currently working on now?
: I have a exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The show has painings from 1998 to the present. I am really excited to see them again. I also made three new paintings for the show, so it will be cool the see them alongside the earlier work. I have a show opening September 6th at Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC. This group of paintings will be beach scenes, jungle scapes and still life paintings. It’s going to be killer!