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Warp Records Warp Erik Parker

Erik Parker


Erik Parker was brought to our attention when a promotional card featuring a piece of his work entitled “Ain’t nothing but sweat inside my head” arrived in the office (see “Ain’t nothing…” picture). Needless to say we had to check out the “New Words” exhibition and when we got there we liked what we saw.

Erik Parker employs a strategy similar to genealogy charts. The paintings incorporate psychedelic colours, written snapshots, of particular time and space, framed by drawings of internal organs and bodily functions, which provides the work with an ironic epic quality. Popular and street culture, slang, elements from tagging and graffiti, names are retrieved and organized in a horizontal dimension that gives the same importance and existence. Parker speaking on his own work says: “I try to make paintings that look the way a hip-hop song sounds”. It is, in fact through his “hip-hop” painting style that he depicts a tragic comic vision of the future.
(From New Words Press Release)

The “New Words” exhibition is running from Feb 16th - 31st March at Sprovieri. 27 Heddon Street. London. W1B 4BJ. 0207 734 2066.

All pictures by Erik Parker. Copyright: Erik Parker.
Spectacular vernacular 2001
This will repel the ghosts 2001
Ain’t Nothin’but sweat inside my hand 2001
On show now at the “New Words” exhibition at Sprovieri.

See Images of the Artwork Here

The following piece is taken from a Leo Koenig catalogue that was published in January 2001.

Six Minutes by David Hunt.

(pause), six minutes (pause), six minutes Erik Parker you’re on. On, on, on… (and on and on) in a syncopation of the beats (that’s the groove) with the rhymes (that’s the lyrics). Not like you need to be told (I get it [cue forehead slap] you mean like hip-hop, ghetto tech , De La and Wu?) ; Parker’s just warming up the crowd before he can hit it and split it and basically wield his paintbrush like the microphone fiend you wish you were. But since you don’t have the keys to the canon (art history, comics, graffiti, the whole Afro futuristic astral plane), you can’t unlock the fault. No worries; this is the canvas tomb that Parker built (with a little help from his friends Mr.Guston and Mr.Denham) a floating Archigram blueprint of
distended bladders, and trippy Seussical arabesques memorializing the founding fathers, while fathering a new foundation. You might say Parker’s hacking into his own repressed patricidal impulses, but without the Oedipal histrionics. The proof is in the liner notes or acknowledgement page or whatever label you want to attach to Parker’s rolodex splayed out over the surface of his paintings like an aerial view of the Mudd club’s VIP room.

The grid her is gone, daddy, gone; and in its place are the dual chambers of some lexical lung, pumping out The Way We Was (and who we were) like shout outs from a blood bank. You don’t so much gig on Parker’s psychedelic fantasias, as inhale then. And the air up there proves to be thick with oxygen. So thick, a light vertigo sets in, a faint dizziness that lends a shimmery, vibrating sheen to his letters as is viewed from the shallows of a tiny reflecting pool. Parker, turning back the clock while turning up the volume, simply hops down from the bleachers in Croenburg’s Crash and stages his own collision between a modish 60’s Magic Bus and the acid curves of a yellow submarine. The result? A hybridized vehicle of palsied text (Arial? Palatino? Try 21st century Brooklyn) and the soft, spongy contours of the flayed human body. Hubert Shelby Jr. wrote a book called Requiem for a dream, but how can you eulogize a state of consciousness that hasn’t yet been fully explored. Cut open, splintered, and atomized for all to see. Erik Parker’s book is The anatomy of a dream and it
goes with out saying that at times it is a ghoulish nightmare.

He’s raising the dead (or undead, in the case of Basquiat) and exorcising ghosts. Paying his respects, and talking ‘bout RESPECT. He’s standing on his own lunatic fringe of names (names he made famous; or not) and simply diving into the wreck – genealogical tree or grad school thesis or phone book in hand – reciting the secret history (it’s not on the syllabus, I checked) of art world styling and profiling. Engorged on Parker’s facts like Glamorama’s encyclopedic guest lists, a mild data-coma kicks in. Which is, I suspect, right where he wants you; vaguely narcotized by the mushroom cloud of details, and yet caught in the crosshairs of what Ballard described in the Atrocity Exhibition as the body cavity turned
inside out. Of the spectacle of one’s own giddy revulsion upon peering into all that biological goo. Parker’s index of movers and shakers, jade performers and listless portrayers, is as much a mausoleum as it is a victory parade; but here, celebrity is interred in the body. The facts are buried in the fat. Glamour is bone deep. “Vogueing” – that painfully retro pose you struck so self consciously last Friday night, is no longer in vogue when frozen in the gelatinous field of Parker’s lumpen bio mass. His Borgesian unpacking of the 15 minute library makes you jump (to attention? Sublime witness?) but also makes you squint (with eerie wonder? Debased amazement?). He turns the Argentine writer’s “map as big as the world” into the pocket field guide whose margins are just large enough to encapsulate the past 30 years of art world scheming and Bobo networking.

Malcom’s militant screed was “the ballot or bullet” but Parker gives you the ballot and the bullet; a community of Dj’s (funkmaster flex), rappers (Mos Def) and graf gods (SAMO), enshrouded by gnarled fingers, cartoonish ray guns, or raised black power fists, just to remind you who’s in charge (and how they got there). Vintage movie cameras (Parker’s world is not digital, not yet) emit tractor beams of yellow light , while tiny bulbs appear to dangle from wires. Will the revolution be televised? How could it not be, Parker seems to say, when the panning klieg lights of Studio 54 simply just morphed into the plashing coloured lights of Passerby’s dance floor. When yesteryear becomes this year’s model, which in turn gets caught in tape or shot for a magazine spread or appears in the style section of the New York Times only to be repackaged as a Gap ad the following season.

But Parker’s not having it. He’s comfortable in the role as Minister of Information, passing out star maps to 359 Broadway ( Leo’s crib) and 26 Wooster (‘The Gallery Has Moved’) like a precocious teen haunting the studio back lots, looking for the odd address to add to the Bel Air tour; but as for the guerilla chic berets and storm trooper boots, well, that’s like, so two years ago. Conversely, Parker’s little red book is no proletarian manifesto – it doesn’t tell you when to salute or how to serve the party – it merely clues you in to who was there. It’s the hangover of history from which we are constantly trying to awake; the dull morning buzz after drinks with the Lauders, the Rubells, Dakis and Ron Perelmann, rendered in stubbly neo-primitive scratches and outlined like the droopy figures on a mural at the Booker T Washington Community Center. Good times – the optimist in Parker hastens to add – ain’t we lucky we got ‘em.


11th February 01

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