Erik Parra hails from Texas, lived in New York after grad school, and then moved to San Francisco to help start Five Points Art House. His studio overlooks the wild and crazy intersection at 6th & Market Streets, but his art practice thrives in the chaotic surroundings. Parra teaches art at all levels and creates paintings, digital art, and photo collages that address unexpected topics, including one rarely found in the art world -- sports.
EKG: Tell us about your current show at Johansson Projects.
Erik Parra: "It's fifteen collages and drawing and the title is Between Currencies. It relates to the distance between the reality and unreality of American myths. A lot of them have to do with themes of success and progression. I like to think about physical mobility as a metaphor for social mobility."
Can you talk more about that?
"There's a collage in the show called Sugar Bowl. For sports fans, it's actually the Rose Bowl. It's a snarky gesture to call one championship bowl by another's name, so I'm attempting to bristle the totally indoctrinated. It's a black-and-white image with a cartoon "Pow!" sunburst cut out above the stadium. Then these shredded pieces of paper radiate upwards in this triangle shape, which references ascension. I'm interested in sports as catharsis and how sports relate as culture in our society. Misnaming the stadium means something to the diehard fans, but really it's just a football game."
What makes you want to dig at the diehard fans, and are you one of them?
"There's so much money that goes into this one form of culture and yet here in the state of California, many children don't have art classes. I feel like football team owners and stadium owners have a social responsibility to give back; I don't have a beef, but I see a disparity of interests. I really enjoy sports; I love baseball and college football specifically. I was raised in a household where we watched sports, but also my dad was a painter. Painting, culture, museums, jazz, sports -- they were no different in my household."
What do you want people to contemplate when they look at your work?
"Big things. I like to think that a painting about ascension can actually tip your way toward some sort of ascension. A lot of the content, for me, relates to philosophical truth. It could be existential or pragmatic but there is a relationship to philosophy in my studio practice."
Some of your photo collages appear to be influenced by John Baldessari's work, are you a fan?
"Yes, but I'm an inadvertent Baldessari fan. I don't look to him specifically, but I have more in recent years, as people reference Baldessari when they look at my work. I feel that what people respond to as a Baldessari influence is actually more of a Russian avant-garde influence."
Tell us about Five Points Art House.
"It's an artist-run platform for makers, curators, and people who are interested in being creative outside of their comfort zone. It's a physical space to exhibit artwork, and there's also room to create installations or performance, and a social studio space that happens every Wednesday where artists and the community come and hang out, drink beer, make collages, or sketch, or write. We like to think of it as a contemporary manifestation of an old art house."
What music could best describe your art?
"There are a couple bands that come to mind. Pretty Girls Make Graves and These Arms are Snakes, which are two bands that come from a hardcore history. The other is Fugazi. Maybe I'm a little sentimental for Fugazi, but they were pretty important for me as a creative person early on."
What would you make if you had endless funding and resources?
"Right now I would make really big paintings. I went to New York in March and I left Chelsea with this desire to make obnoxious, really big paintings. If I had endless resources I would make stupid-large paintings."
Erik Parra's Between Currencies show is on view at Johansson Projects in Oakland through September 11, 2010.