Erik Parra, Between Currencies

Erik is a gentleman artist who is broadcasting tomorrow’s vibe from his small apartment on Market Street. His paintings and mixed media work are on display, beginning this week at Johansson Projects. He invited me out last week and we talked about his experience across the Bay, among other things.

click on each image to enlarge

Obi: I met you through your association with Five Points Art House, I didn’t realize that you had shown at Johansson Projects before. How does a coowner of a gallery in the City come to show twice in Oakland?

Erik: I Love Oakland. I have exhibited in Oakland once before but the first time was at the amazing, bygone Blankspace Gallery in 2009. In July of 2007 my wife Jessica Laurent and I moved to San Francisco to help start Fivepoints Arthouse. As an artist, curator, and writer I am hungry to see what cultural activities are happening around me. Having heard good things about the Oakland Art Murmur we were eager to attend our first Murmur in August of ‘07. Needless to say we were hooked and I have really only missed a handful since then. So my relationship with the fabulous Jason Byers and Kerri Johnson of Blankspace developed out of visiting the gallery and talking about the exhibits, the bay area art scene and such. It was one of my favorite galleries early on and it is certainly an honor to have exhibited there.

Obi: You work in a bunch of different sizes, making paintings and drawings from your shared studio apartment in SF. How do you stay inspired? It is something about your subject matter that continues the dialogue of artist with his work or is it something, like maybe your relationship with your wife, or your training that compels the effort?

Erik: All three definitely factor into my studio in important ways. My formal training with out a doubt has helped focus my hand and my mind. Jessica is an awesome artist in her own right as well as an intelligent, thoughtful critic. My subject matter has occupied my psyche for quite a while and continues to grow in nuance. But as far as inspiration goes I get inspired first by the artists working and exhibiting around me and second, from the horrible things people do to each other. The former drivse me into the studio and the latter becomes the content. So, I have this desire to create something beautiful out of something horrible whether it’s a real, productive conversation or a successful painting.

Obi: Explain the concept for this exhibit, won’t you please? What can we expect this first Friday? 

Erik: Between Currencies is a love letter to the American Democratic Experiment. At Johansson Projects this First Friday, you will see this letter manifest as a visual conversation between 15 drawings and collages. Equal parts poem and experiment, the works in Between Currencies create a temporal space, similar to a familiar memory, in order to explore American mythologies. Never entirely sweet nor particularly sour this engaging love letter moves methodically between the two in order to open the conversation up and consider what it takes to maintain a truly productive relationship to this experiment.

visit Erik’s site at

  1. Kyle Levinger

    looks great!

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