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Gallagher 14 April 2010 Self Detach ment Born in Germany, Erik Parker was raised in San Antonio. He faced problem s in school, and eventually dropped out of school at age 16 (Kino, Par. 9). Gett ing his life back on track, Parker transferred to the University of Texas in 199 3, and “brought his chartlike painting concept with him” (Kino, Par. 13). He com pleted his masters degree of fine arts at Purchase College (Kino, Par. 14). Park er’s career skyrocketed as a result of his inspirational paintings which consist ed of deep meaning (Johnson, Paddy, Par. 2). Parker arrived in the New York scen e in the 1990’s, right when the art market was picking up. He is known for his “ cartoon-like maps” and “different cultural subcultures, like the hip-hop scene” found within most of his pieces (Kino, Par. 7). Since 1992, Erik Parker has received numerous awards for his paintings. These include the Denbela-Ortiz Galeria Outstanding Scholarship in Visual Art in 1992 issued by the San Antonio College, as well as others issued by the Univers ity of Texas at Austin and the Visual Arts Department in SUNY Purchase College ( Taka Ishii Gallery, “Erik Parker: Awards”). Erik Parker keeps the mentality that “we are adapting” (Grimberg, Par. 3 ) and morphing into something greater and more positive than ourselves. His piec es highlight psychedelic images, showing the chaotic and hectic lifestyle of “pe ddling drugs” and “public brawling” (Kino, Par. 10). There is a continuous theme of disfigured faces made up of other smaller pieces in most of Parker’s work. P arker explores an outlook in the art of cartoonists as well as taking the audien ce “into a mirror through the eyes of a furiously hallucinating drug fiend” (Joh nson, Par. 2). His incorporation of words contributes to the broader message of adaptation within his pieces. Parker takes his experiences and applies it to his artwork. The idea of chaos and adaptation is an overlapping theme throughout all of his works. Parker makes it known in his art, that a certain level of adaptati on must be met in order for his works to come together as a full piece. Parker’s art contributes to the idea of detachment. In order to undergo any obstacle, on e must detach themselves from everything they are surrounded by, and completely submerge themselves in what they want to accomplish. This idea is portrayed in P arker’s facially detached paintings, and the overwhelming amounts of detached pi eces that contribute to his overall works. Through detachment, it is inferred th at on must isolate themselves from society’s influence in order to fully live wi thout influence or pressure, something Erik Parker faced in his previous addicti on problem. In most of Parker’s works, he focuses on using words to display the “sub cultures” that interested him, which included “hip-hop” and “rock ‘n’ roll” (Smi th, Par. 2). These subcultures can be seen in the various words incorporated in his paintings such as “guru“, “global“, “torn“, and “headfunds” (Paul Kasmin Gal lery). Hallucination is used in Parker’s works as well, and his works are descri bed as “underground comics” and “graffiti”. This hallucination Parker alludes to is also viewed as a “movement of sound” (Smith, Par. 3). Not only is Parker sho wing the audience the crazy and confusing feeling of addiction, but he is making them feel the different colors and textures, and the confusion found within eac h color. Taking into consideration Parker’s previous substance abuse problem, it gives his artwork background to the images of hallucination. Hallucinations incl ude “seeing patterns, lights, beings, or objects that aren’t there” (Ballas, Par . 1). In Parker’s artwork, patterns, lights, and foreign beings are all evident, but they come together to form one unique and clear figure of a face. These fea tures of hallucination are evident in all of Parker’s works, especially his use of pattern and foreign objects within one real being. Parker’s art allows the au
dience “to be witnessing the emergence of some extravagant freak of nature” thro ugh these images of hallucination (Smith, Par. 4). His work is also viewed as “m ore noise than anything else, and recede into their stoner niche like their psyc hedelic antecedents” (Harvey, Par. 2). Most of Erik Parker’s pieces are disfigur ed faces that take a while to decipher. His pieces usually have one central obje ct that is made up of other objects that are painted collaboratively together. One of Erik Parker’s most known works is “Torn” (Paul Kasmin Gallery). T his piece of art consists of a disfigured head, but Parker makes the eyes appare nt. The elements that make up the face are different arrays of shapes, and all t he colors and mellow and calm blues and greens. Although there is an apparent fa ce that is made with the addition of different pieces, there is also a detachmen t of the pieces that can be seen. This piece looks as though an element of the w ork can be easily removed or another piece can be easily added without a problem . Although this is an abstract and disfigured face, Parker is able to make the f ace’s eyes distinguishable to the audience. Parker does not fail in incorporatin g his vibrant words, in this painting, he incorporates the word “torn” in the lo wer left corner. In a majority of Parker’s pieces, there is a specific face that can be s een throughout all of the other elements incorporated. There is a relation to th e disfigured faces he creates, and being under the influence. In a study shown, numerous pictures of faces are drawn each at a different stage of being under th e influence of a foreign substance. Each of the faces drawn were very disfigured (Cow Boy Books), much like Parker’s faces in his pieces of work. Parker’s piece s of art and the pictures drawn by people under the influence are very closely r elated in that they are both portraits in which the portraits are not completely perfect, and there is some disfigurement left in each picture. What sets Parker ’s paintings apart from the pictures is that Parker also draws upon separation a nd detachment throughout all of this pictures. Parker also focuses on smaller as pects in the paintings, and find details that eventually will make up the total picture in the end. In Parker’s pieces, there is some sort of detachment from th e self. Although his works come together as a face, there is a separateness of t he face as well. Each face has different components that make up the total pictu re. It can be inferred that Parker feels as though there are necessary times in which the self should detach from itself, or its surroundings. The fact that Parker is referenced as a “furiously hallucinating drug fi end” (Johnson, Par. 2) contributes to the fact that the detachment of the self c ould be fulfilled under the influence. His works even recall a time of “using dr ugs to stretch consciousness to the brink of psychosis” (Johnson, Par. 3). Becau se a type of lunacy is incorporated in getting his point across, psychosis enter s Parker’s allusion to drug use and the higher struggle. “Drug addiction and art therapy go hand-in-hand when a person who is add icted to drugs or alcohol seeks to find recovery and rebuild their lives” (Healt hynewage, Par. 1). The reasons for abuse are hidden “inside the person’s psyche” and can be “revealed readily through art therapy” (Healthynewage, Par. 2) which can be observed in Parker’s paintings. Art therapy contributes greatly to Parke r’s work because his work reveals a display of emotions that he may have been un dergoing while in that state of psychosis and the time of his drug abuse problem s. The idea of art therapy also contributes to the idea of detachment. In order to undergo any type of therapy, one must detach themselves from everything they are surrounded by, and completely submerge themselves in what they want to accom plish. Parker’s paintings displays this detachment of the self, while also outl ining the attachment evident, which is found among distinguishing the faces as a whole. His connection of detachment proves necessary in separating the body fro m the soul in order to accomplish such a drastic therapy. On the other hand, his connection of attachment proves necessary in creating that overall feeling of a cceptance of oneself. These traits prove necessary in the therapeutic stage, and contribute to Parker’s struggle against substance abuse. These traits also serv e as a ground for detaching one’s self from society in stepping out against soci ety’s grasp on each person, which Parker seems to be doing in all of his paintin
gs. Though there is no definite clarification as to whether Parker is blamin g society for the pain people are faced with everyday, his idea of the separatio n and disfigurement of the faces he paints shows pain and weakness. The fact tha t there is not one stable or full face in any of his paintings shows a lack of s trength and power. In making each face consist of small bits and pieces, he crea tes an image as if each face has small robotic parts, that can be changed or dis membered whenever needed. One element that stands out in this piece of work is the numerous colors and designs incorporated in the full piece. Parker uses many contradicting patt erns in “Torn”, from the straight edges to the smooth curves. The colors are als o somewhat contrary in the bright oranges to the mellow blues. These strong oppo sitions Parker magnifies in “Torn” has the effect of confusing the mind, and cre ating a lost and frantic mindset in the audience. This shows the reality and tru e difficulty of detaching oneself from body and soul. This state of confusion th at Parker leaves the reader in also shows what is going on in the brain, as well as what one may be feeling in a state of separateness. What Parker also does well is alluding to outside influences. In this pa inting, Parker creates the effect of many eyes, incorporating the shapes of eyes all throughout the figure. The true eyes are seen against a white background, b ut the other false eyes serve as some outside force looking on the face. In maki ng these eyes attached throughout the face, there is an allusion to society and the idea of always being judged. The fact that these eyes are a part of the face contribute to the idea of detachment, and how one must have the ability to cont rol what enters one’s life. Parker’s use of pastel and vibrant paints allows the audience to see a m ore wild and imaginative side to Parker, not necessarily focus on his previous a ddiction problems. In using such harsh contrasts against mellow and cool colors, Parker creates a crazy and confusing vibe that the audience can pick up immedia tely. This shows that the mind is undergoing confusion, shock, and even amazemen t because of the harsh contrast of both color and shape. The text Parker uses also creates definition to his work, and are viewed as “loosely organized around infamy and scandal, spewing forth names and phrase s like so many indigestible sound bites” (Rosenberg, Par. 3). Parker’s display o f text brings to mind a hypnotic and dizzy portrayal of the image he is describi ng. The fact that the one word he uses is “Torn” gives the reader a sense of dis traught and loneliness that Parker wants the reader to experience. The fact that the disfigured face is resting upon the word “Torn” contributes to Parker’s ove rall message of loneliness and the feeling of being “torn” between oneself, and what oneself has become as an influence of society and its pressures. In another piece of Parker’s work, “Guru”, there is a mass of flesh-like pieces which make up another face, but this face is more hidden beneath the num erous parts that make up the face. In a sense, the face is lost within the face. Like his other painting “Torn”, this painting draws a significant contrast with the eye in the picture by putting it against a white background. This is import ant because once the eye is found, the rest of the face is unveiled. Parker inco rporates small and tiny shapes within the face, which makes it very hectic and c onfusing. Another contrast besides the eye is the mouth. Parker makes the mouth in a downward direction, as if the face is frowning. There is a clear look of sa dness and hopelessness in this painting, especially because of the downward posi tion of most of the items that make up the face. The fact that everything is so stringy and small on the face represent some sort of uncertainty and weakness wi thin the face, as if it is about to fall apart at any given time. This weakness displays negative connotation to the picture, and makes an inference to society through the text included. Like his other paintings, Parke r incorporates text into his picture, and his face is lying on a type of pedesta l with the name “Guru” imprinted upon it. This is very contradictory because a g uru is a leader, and someone people follow. In society, there are many “gurus” o r leaders who influence the lives of many people. In putting this saddened and d isfigured face on a pedestal named “guru”, Parker is alluding to the fact that t
his vibe of depression and negativity is seen in almost any “guru” or leader of society that might have any influence on others. The fact that this face is also elevated on a pedestal contributes to the fact that this feeling of negativity is brought out only when another equal is set above others. In this painting, there is nothing but confusion and depression seen in the face, especially because of the downward pointing mouth. Parker could be mak ing an allusion to society, and how people follow things set upon them by societ y itself. Parker uses his art to show “what is going on, both in the studio and in life and globally” (Grimberg, Par. 1). Parker’s allusion to society and its f ollowers play a role in detachment, because in order to follow one’s self, one m ust detach from what they’ve known and give headway to new and different experie nces. The idea of rehabilitation for substance abuse can be identified as one of those experiences in which a person must detach from their previous self, and s tart new again. Erik Parker was very much influenced by Fela Kuti, who was a Nigerian mu sician who died as a “forceful champion of human rights imprisoned for his activ ities” (Curti, Sec. 2). Parker displays an interest in human rights, and standin g up for rights that are justly deserved. With the idea of human rights comes th e idea of free will and freedom to express ones’ self. Parker accurately portray s an act of expression in one’s self which relates back to his influence human r ights. Because Parker is so in tuned with who he is, he can portray that express ion by separating himself from everything that he knows and is surrounded by in society. He detaches himself from the world, just as his paintings are detaching themselves from the faces they are stuck to. Parker’s work also contains a type of synthesis that allows everything t o flow together. Each element of his works “is linked to another, or descends fr om another” and resembles something like a “family tree” (Curti, “This Bitch of a Life” ). This unity introduced by Parker shows that everything comes together, and is effected as a whole. Though his paintings bring unity, there is a clear separation seen in the numerous parts of his paintings. Parker makes it a fact t o show that his paintings would be meaningless if all of the aspects did not com e together as a whole. This can be related to the human condition of adjustment and acceptance that Parker points out in both of these paintings. When one sepa rates themselves either from society or themselves, it cannot be forgotten that there will always be a bigger picture that each person belongs to. Parker remind s the reader of this in creating such a defined distinction of separateness and wholeness in his paintings. Parker’s work generally resembles “drawings” which are “mostly made up o f words: elaborate litanies of name, or people, of places and movements both fam iliar and famous, that evoke an era or a scene” (Curti, Par. 1). Because his pai ntings are like drawings, it holds a place in the imagination, where everything is fictional and surreal. By including words in his works, he brings back that f ictional painting and makes it more realistic, adding some edge and seriousness. The words added by Parker do not only add a significant amount of emphas is on the painting, but it relates real life experiences to his work. By includi ng this reference, it is easier for the audience to grasp a better understanding of society’s influence and pressure upon its people. It also creates a negative connotation in relation to society and the surroundings of people because of th e negative words and negative vibes that Erik Parker alludes to. What reviewers fail to see is that Erik Parker is not only a “hallucinat ing drug fiend” (Johnson, Par. 2) in his paintings, but a social activist steppi ng out against society ruling people. Even as a young child growing up in New Yo rk, Parker always displayed some type of rebellion or angst against the social i mplications placed upon people. Using his past addiction experiences, Parker is able to create something that draws attention to both the self and the non-self. He is able to portray that sense of self recognition once one is able to take a step back, and pull away from their surroundings. In creating this image, he in corporates aspects that can be identified with as psychosis and hallucination in order to demonstrate how he relates to self detachment, and overcoming somethin
g that society put upon him. Erik Parker’s constant negative attitude and portrayal of the portraits creates a negative definition in the outcome of whatever is effecting the faces in his paintings. Taking into consideration Parker’s adolescence and inspiration s, there is a pattern of resentment against society, and Parker displays this re sentment in his paintings. Parker infers through his paintings that although the re is resentment, there is also a way to detach from society, and a way to think in a way that trails away from the pressures and influences of others. He even uses his experiences of hallucinations and psychosis as examples of ways to crea te this figure that is capable of showing its audience how to isolate and detach itself from outside influences irrelevant to specific beings.
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