Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Rory Parks and Paradise Lost

Rory Parks Installation, NYC

Rory Parks is painter as all things. He is at once artist, author, architect, and engineer. He is poet, philosopher, tinkerer, dreamer, and inventor. He is stage director, stage designer, stage setter and stage driver. He is distracted, head in the clouds, and sleeves rolled up, laser focused. He is composer and conductor and orchestra and soloist and more.

Big Orange Projector (Jukebox), oil on canvas, 89”x21”, 2010

He has always known when something he was painting felt just right. That, ah yes, that'll do. He has that kind of sensibility. That kind of intelligence. That kind of natural talent, genius and ability. A deep well of emotional awareness and goodness and even music. All of that and more.

Four Thought Experiments, oil on canvas, 2011

All of that and more go into each one of his paintings. That is what it takes to bring one of his paintings to life. Like beautifully crafted ships or flying machines. Ready to launch themselves out into the world. He has been making paintings like this since he was a very young man, wise and mature and prolific beyond his years.

not titled, Oil on Canvas, 47"x24.5" 2014

So that is part of the story. Part of what goes into the paintings of Rory Parks. Part of what goes into these constructions that he envisions and executes with extraordinary deliberation. The paintings, the narratives in and behind the paintings, and the experience of the paintings, come together, integrate, to give us something highly evolved, utterly unique, and wholly original.

not titled, Oil on Canvas, 48.75"x25.5" 2014

These are dystopian landscapes the likes of the cave paintings of Lascaux. They tell a Mad Max kind of tale of a civilization hung up on itself, a civilization that lost touch with itself, with the earth, with why we are here. These are beautiful portraits of hubris, of decay, of paradise lost.

Organism Tracks (After Flayed Rabbit), Oil on Canvas Assemblage 2014

We see buildings and bridges and structures like grand arks, withering in the landscape like ancient ruins, lost cities, something out of Planet of the Apes or Aliens. They are above all, however, living, alive, organic, and as such, organisms. They are at once proud and beautiful and even defiant. They stand tall, but they are falling apart.

Blue and White Projector, oil on canvas, 32”x18”, 2009

Within the larger play of his various constructs, devices, lenses, and narratives, there is something else going on. It is his language of painting. His texture. His fabric. His thin lines of pigment that build his surfaces. Where unusual color dialogue sneaks in, sets off sparks, and surprises us. A whole wonderful world unto itself. Delicious strips of paint, bumpy coalescing lengths of juicy brush strokes that Van Gogh would make a meal of, that tell a color story Albers would delight in, brush strokes that are knitted together, cemented together, thatched together. This is his signature style. Where paint acts like paint. Where our itch for the sensuality of paint gets scratched. Where we could happily set up camp. Where we can be intimate with the richly layered painting experience. Where we can be intimate with Rory Parks's paintings.

Rory Parks, 2003, oil on canvas

Parks builds and stretches slightly irregular canvasses that enhance the essential "from the ground up" aesthetic of the work and reinforce the cave painting vibe. Rory Parks as Robinson Crusoe, artist documenting the fall of Western Civilization with his bare hands.

Blue Projector(Book), oil on canvas, 32”x17”, 2009

Interestingly enough some of his inspirations spring directly from just such sources, like St Peters on  the island of Bermuda, where the artist has deep family roots. The 1612 church has been rebuilt many times but the interior provided a rich jumping off point thick with history, culture, and the human stain. The body of paintings pulled from that experience tapped into a world trapped in amber.

Rory Parks, Rose Viewfinder De Facto Organism, oil on canvas, 2007
(inspired by St Peter's interior, Bermuda)

Parks also peoples his paintings with characters. We are not alone. Strange animated forms stand in for us. Abstract inventions consistent and faithful to the abstract nature and mission of the work. These are paintings, first and foremost. They never forget that. They speak through the language of painting, through form and color, mark and composition. Beautifully. Always.

Inside the Monastic Volume of the Calendar, oil on canvas, 2012

Rory Parks, 2004, oil on canvas

There is also this pop culture question imbedded in them. Like the great wall in King Kong, are his brilliant, elaborate, and complex constructions built to keep us out, or something in. This question is unspoken, but it gnaws at us, haunts us, providing just one more motor to a body of work that would seem to generate enough chthonic energy and power, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, to reach across time, to call to us, to wake us from our slumber, to whisper in our ears as we charge, half a league, half a league, half a league onward.

Quity’s Double Blue Cross Pageantry, 18” x 36”; oil on canvas, 2011

Rory Parks, water base paints on board, 2006

Stamps and Envelopes, 2016 Installation, SAC Visual Arts,
 San Antonio, Curated by Norbert Clyde Martinez JR

Artdeal Magazine
Spring Hill, April, 2017

Hang On To Your Hot Lights (installation 2013),
 Oil on Canvas, wooden sculpture/shelving installation 2013

Rory Parks, oil on board, 2012

Four Thought Experiments, Installation detail


Rory Parks, 2013, water base on board

Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017

This essay accompanies the Rory Parks painting exhibit currently on display at the Bow Street Gallery.

Rory Parks Installation, The Bow Street Gallery, 2016 - 2017

Rory Parks at the Rema Hort Mann Foundation


Anonymous said...

great piece Addison. so happy rory is thriving. the show at Bow Street looks great do you have individual images bestG
Gregory Amenoff
Eve and Herman Gelman Professor of Visual Art
Director of Painting and Drawing
School of the Arts
Columbia University

Anonymous said...


Don Alden

Anonymous said...

Loved your new blog...loved looking at the paintings...special style...many talents.


Anonymous said...

Incredible paintings and lovely writing.


Anonymous said...

These are fantastic! Rory Parks is very talented!

Alex Gove

Anonymous said...

Nice piece. He is a real synthesizer.


Anonymous said...

So wonderful! Special!

Anita Lucas

Anonymous said...

Very cool! what awesome paintings!


Anonymous said...


Carol Heft

Anonymous said...

art-making proclivity and spirit!

Todd McKie

Anonymous said...

Excellent work and an excellent article written about it.

Douglas Abdell

Anonymous said...

I just love Rory's paintings!


Anonymous said...

I loved reading it and seeing photos of the exhibit, it looks fantastic :)

I especially loved seeing Rory's older work in dialogue with some of his recent paintings. The way the paintings are described in the blog illuminated them for me in New lights: Thinking of them as figures, musical and in conversation with Lascaux....thank you so much for sharing, that language will stick with me!