Erik Parra USA, b. 1975

Artist Bio

Erik Richard Parra was born and raised in the border metroplex of El Paso-Juárez. He received a Bachelors of Fine Art degree in painting from The University of Texas at Austin and completed a Masters of Fine Art while on fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Currently based in San Francisco, California Parra has exhibited internationally in alternative spaces, commercial galleries and museums in Berlin, Brazil, Los Angeles, London and New York. In the Bay Area Erik’s work has been exhibited at Blankspace Gallery, Johansson Projects, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Root Division, Southern Exposure, Kala Art Institute and the Berkeley Art Center. 


Parra’s work has been included in publications including New American Paintings, the SF Bay Gaurdian and the LA Times. Additionally Parra teaches art and has lectured at universities, given artist talks, garnered residencies and awards. Most recently he was awarded an inaugural Liquitex Research Residency.


Artist Statement

Architecture is supposed to keep us safe. To achieve this simple directive, we must navigate a complex system which effects both our personal and cultural psyches. We share experiences of a built environment colored by personal, political and practical realities that often feel simultaneously antagonistic and comforting. I make paintings and drawings that engage the visual tropes of contemporary spaces to reveal and revise the stories embedded in the environments we build.


To do this, I draw upon my personal memories of growing up in a “mid-century Modernist house” and conflate those in the studio with more recent direct memories of interiors and design objects to construct engaging hypothetical interiors. Rather than working from direct source material, I construct my images through a process of remembering, drawing, cutting and improvising forms. I consider these elements at every stage, from ideation to execution of the final work. I use both darkness and lightness for dramatic effect as my invented interiors host a range of potential, related conversations. I also channel, through visual interpretation, narrative tensions informed by symbolism mined from the history of painting, existential philosophy, film, horror fiction, extreme music and politics.


I am particularly invested in post war narratives that shape contemporary life. For the history of white flight and its effect on contemporary urban real estate practices directly impacts my work. The implications of these stories do not simply affect my ability to maintain a studio but they literally pervade just about every other aspect of life. Thus, when I render a mid-century modern chair from memory, I allude to specific narratives of economic success and privilege.