Postage stamps featuring Serbian-American inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, poet Ezra Pound, American writer-essayist Flannery O’Connor and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo are just a few of the images present in Phil Parker’s 2013 composition, Twenty-eight-Piece Grid.
“It’s a real vibrant, simplified form,” Parker, a Flagler Beach-based artist, says of the work that integrates collage, paper, wood, digital images, metal and found objects. “The 28 pieces reference different cultural icons. I think there’s a sort of architectural feel to the whole structure. You can see the graphic design background and how things are held together.”
Parker’s exhibition, Assemblage/Collage, is on view in the UNF Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville through Aug. 30.
“As far as the structural pieces that hang on the wall, they’re pure assemblage,” Parker says of the show’s 13 works of art that he created over a series of three years.
“There are just very similar motifs of objects,” says Parker of the signifiers and materials that thread his work together. “There are discarded bicycle wheels that run through many of them as a graphic element. There’s a kind of simple compositional structure that’s a strong horizontal and vertical that intersects each other that the pieces are based upon.”
Born and raised in Daytona Beach, Parker earned a BFA in Fine and Studio Arts from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“After I graduated, I did studio art for 12 years and then got a teaching position at Florida School of the Arts over in Palatka in the mid-’80s and taught there until about 2000 as the head of the graphic design department,” he explains. “Since then, I’ve gone back to studio work. I’ve done gallery shows, museum shows and street shows off and on since that time.”
Parker’s work is included in the collections of the Florida Museum of Art, the Florida House of Representatives, Norton Museum of Art, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and Atlantic Center for the Arts, among others.
This current MOCA show was actually a long time in the making.
“It came about through the University [of North Florida]. The department contacted me, by way of Jim Draper, who’s the director,” says Parker. “I had done some shows there. I did a show in 2000 at the university before the museum was connected with them. And then another show in 2005.”
The current show at MOCAJax was installed in less than a day with the help of Draper and Parkers’ wife, Marilyn.
“I’ve put the show up many, many times, so I … knew what I wanted to do,” says Parker of his meticulous process of presenting his work. “I had built a scale model of the whole gallery and put one-twelfth scales of how I wanted everything to go, photographed it, and showed it to the installers and we worked together.”
The result is a combination of assemblages and collage, utilizing everything from found objects, like metal goblets, to layered digital images and handmade Kozo papers.
“My background is fine art in printmaking and drawing,” says Parker. “I have a lot of experience in the design world and the printmaking realm, which lead to book art and papermaking and that sort of thing.”
All of the pieces in Assemblage/Collage are for sale and run between $200 and $7,500, for some of the larger assemblages. But don’t expect price tags to adorn the work — you’ll have to check with MOCA’s information desk for a price list.
“They’re worked and they’re studied for a period of time,” he says of the exhibition. “It’s not like it’s just something that pops out of the top of my head. It’s a culmination of a lot of ideas and, design-wise, sort of based in psychology, philosophy and mythology. There are elements of all of that in various pieces. It’s not really obvious, but they’re in there.”
What’s next for Parker? He’s returning to his roots in drawing.
“This assemblage series up there is the end culmination of about three years of work, so I’m going back and doing studio drawing, process drawing, mark making and letting the drawing emerge from a strong, powder graphite I put down, and building the image from there.”