We are huge fans of Parra, and his March 2008 cover ranks as one of our favorites of all time. And, we quite the 3 artworks that the Amsterdam-based artist sent for our 20th Anniversary show, "Art Truancy," at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in NYC this past May/June. The artist is back at HVW8 Gallery in Los Angeles with a new series of works, "Same Old Song," all visual treats that not only reflect the artist's sense of humor, but this roots in poster art where communication is a practice in simplyfying complex ideas.
The works in Same Old Song are overturned wine glasses, leisure-suited perverts, and behind-the-bar-booty slaps arranged in compositions of red, white, blue, pink, Ben-Day dots, and stars. In all its orgiastic fervor, his work is foremost graphic in character: tightly controlled compositions, highly saturated colors, flood-filled silhouettes, flatness, and hard edges that are hallmarks of the comic tradition that Lichtenstein had notoriously usurped to conflate the proverbial high-and-low strata of the 1960s Pop movement.
While Lichtenstein’s early production was made for the gallery, Parra had his start in flyers, posters, and other media of advertorial nature. His works are visual literalizations of a dirty punchline. Sometimes they are art referential; other times they seem to be purely profane, both harmlessly witty and uncomfortably politically incorrect. When asked why he uses his trademark beaked humanoids, he claims that if he drew human faces, the figure becomes too familiar. Generalizations and types are more truthful than the personal.
Parra once described his work as “fast and freestyle” with an intent to un-complicate, purposefully limiting himself to a small color palette. This simplification makes his work all the more viral it has the ability to travel through pervasive and accessible channels. Whether it¹s democratizing or artlessly commercial is a question already beat to exhaustion by Pop and Post-modern. Parra doesn¹t care. His is an example of the strength of graphic design. It shamelessly hijacks commercial systems of circulation and is propagated with both compositional sophistication and crudeness like a silk-gloved bitchslap, a force that gains institutional recognition incidentally, without solicitation. A commercial illustrator doesn’t just earn international gallery exhibitions in major art centers and murals in cultural institutions such as SF MOMA and MOCA without at least some published critical endorsement from an academic.
Same Old Song
June 28—August 10, 2014
HVW8 Gallery, Los Angeles