San Francisco-based artist Erik Parra draws upon the nuances of predominantly American culture, both the visual arts of painting and film as well more underground spheres of that culture including music and radical political groups, to form a psychological portrait of the United States at critical moments in the nation’s history. His carefully-rendered images explore how the fabricated and real histories and the arts and architecture created within those histories, inform and influence each other and the environments humans build for themselves to inhabit — figuratively and literally living within the spirit of their time. Parra’s solo show, “each devil his own” now on view at Transmission Gallery continues this practice, specifically drawing parallels between the mid-century aesthetics and surrounding political and social culture with contemporary sociopolitical issues through three series of paintings, drawings and installation. For this exhibition the domestic interior plays central stage to examine the wide range of potential conversations related to humanity’s own creation of aesthetics, and how it relates to real politics and history.
“each devil his own” particularly engages with crucial issues ten to twenty years after World War II: the substantial proliferation of the suburban neighborhood and ensuing mass exodus from large city and agricultural living, the “Space Race” and the founding of NASA, and of course the Cold War; while examining their lasting effects on contemporary society. However, rather than a directive narration or depiction, Parra reflects upon these historical happenings by presenting these moments as lived by the average American: within their homes and by the common fashion and decor of the age. Familiar looking interior spaces are rendered with an unsettling effect. The attempt to portray living the perfect American Dream, illustrated by the idyllic modern house is subverted by imperfections and curious arrangement of the dwelling space. Pristinely arranged, almost sterile objects, instilled with rife symbolism. Some beautifully arranged tables and chairs seem to float, shadows cast either don’t appear or where they should, while coffee tables and the perspectives of sideboards and the walls don’t quite align. Many are nocturnal scenes, entirely devoid of presence. Common furniture and neat flower arrangements are juxtaposed with abstracted geometrical objects — perhaps an art object? This paradox of the familiar coexisting with the peculiar opens the space up to new readings and discourse.
Erik Parra’s “each devil his own” will be at Transmission Gallery through January 23, 2016.