Out of the Ark (2012) is one of eleven paintings in Erik Parker’s solo exhibition Bye Bye Babylon at Paul Kasmin Gallery. Bye Bye Babylon comprised a mixture of still-lifes and jungle scenes, rendered in Parker’s signature neon palette.
Babylon was a bustling city in ancient Mesopotamia that historians have estimated to be the largest city in the world from around 1770 to 1760 BC. In the bible, Babylon is referred to as ‘Babel’, reinterpreted in the Book of Genesis from the Hebrew verb bilbél, meaning ‘to confuse’. In the biblical story, the people united following the Great Flood and migrated to Shinar where they began to speak a shared language. There, there they strove to build a city around a tower that would be tall enough to reach heaven. God, angered at their arrogance, jumbled their ability to speak this language. As a result, the men could no longer understand each other and were eventually forced to abandon the Tower of Babel and scatter across the world and build new cities. The significance of Babylon’s history and its biblical references have combined such that the word ‘Babylon’ contemporaneously has come to mean ‘metropolis’ in various languages. In Parker’s series, he turns away from his native New York to explore imaginary panoramas inspired by untouched landscapes around the world.Based on Maya Bay, Thailand, Out of the Ark features a deserted beach clearing framed by lush foliage. Far from being a halcyon portrayal of its original inspiration, Out of the Ark employs Parker’s trademark blend of psychedelic surrealism. Fleshy, tentacle-like leaves grow in the foreground amidst snaking vines, extending toward a lemon yellow sky. Blades of grass protruding on the sandy beach reveal the inspirations that Parker draws from American subcultures. The artist has discussed in interviews that his portrayal of grass in his landscape paintings are inspired by the way comic book artists draw hair growing from the heads of their characters.
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