Erik Parker combines surrealism, comic book art, pop, hip hop, heavy and psychedelia, with a touch of Matisse and Rauschenberg, to create innovative work that is in demand in the U.S, Europe and Asia.
Early Life and Education
Erik Parker was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1968, where his father was serving in the military, and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Parker was a rebellious teenager. He was more fascinated by MAD magazine and lowrider paintings than anything that was happening in the classroom, so he dropped out of school at age 16.
In the introduction to Erik Parker: Colorful Resistance, a compilation of his work, Parker wrote, “It was either art or a life of vandalism.” He skateboarded, sold drugs, did oil changes and had other low-paying jobs until 1988, when he was arrested twice in one week. The first arrest was for public brawling and driving while under the influence. The second arrest was for brawling and resisting arrest. Parker was given probation. His probation officer, who saw some potential in him, offered to cut his probation in half if he passed his GED and expunge it if he enrolled in the local community college.
Parker got at GED and began taking art classes at the community college. In 1993, after spending nearly four years at the community college, Parker transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied with Peter Saul. Saul’s surrealist, outsider art inspired Parker’s style, as did the work of the Chicago Imagists. His unique blend of styles got Parker a scholarship to Purchase College of the State University of New York, where he completed an MFA.
Parker moved to New York in 1996 and had his work exhibited at a few group shows. He was invited to paint a mural at Gavin Brown’s gallery, which was fronted by the Passerby Bar, the center of the underground art world in the late ’90s. In exchange for the painting, Parker received a free lifetime tab at the Passerby. His work at the Passerby caught the attention of Laura Hoptman, who was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art at that time. She included Parker’s work in the first Greater New York show at P.S. 1 in 2001, which led to his first solo show at the Leo Koenig Gallery.
Parker’s career quickly took off after the Greater New York show. He began to exhibit in Europe and Japan and produced enough work to have three or four shows a year. In 2001, Parker married screenwriter Brook Dunn. The couple has two daughters. Parker lives and works in Brooklyn. His work is in the permanent collection of MoMA and other fine museums and galleries around the world.