Interview Parra


Pieter, you were in New York recently for a show at Jonathan Levine gallery. What was the purpose and what kind of new works did you present this time ?

P : Well, i got an email i think a year ago from Mr. Levine himself saying that he was interested in doing something, he had been following my work for a while and was especially enthusiastic by the sculpture work i do together with Case Studyo from Gent (belgium). I think we had about 3 or 4 long phone calls before he decided to do a show with me. So i had to step it up ! I mean this was a well known galley in NYC ! I got nervous for a couple of weeks i remember, then i had to pull myself together and started to make sketches, i made a lot of drawings, then made a selection of the drawings, some of them were gonna be paintings and some of them i redid with pencil and black ink. In the meantime the guys from Case studyo in belgium were working on the sculptures based on my drawings, one small version in a porcelain edition and one big red hand sculpted 'one of' version. The big red sculpture arrived a day before the opening ! Haha, it was kind of stressful but before i knew it i was standing in a white room in NY with 10 paintings, 15 drawings and some sculptures. The whole process of making the work was is like a blur, cant remember much of it, but i was very happy with the end result. I personally really liked the contrast between the big 4 block colored color paintings and the simple pen and ink black and white drawings

How was the opening and the welcome you had there ?

P : The welcome was great ! Jonathan Levine is a great professional gallerist. When I arrived they already started making a plan for hanging the work and it looked great ! They paired me with female artist Olek for the opening. Jonathan always has 2 shows running. Olek had gallery nr.1 and i had nr.2. I felt a bit like the underdog, and that's a nice position to be in haha ! The opening was crazy, so many people and the nice part about it was that a lot of people that came never seen my work before, they were there for Olek and i think it worked vice verca too for her (Olek). So there was this nice cross section of people that were introduced to stuff that was new for them. It's very nice to have people see your work and talk to you that just saw it for the first time. You get an honest reaction.

How USA, specially NYC, is an influence for you ? What do you like - and not - there ?

P : It makes me feel like a really small animal ! Running around looking for food in the city huh. Personally NY is a bit too crazy and crowded, but there is this energy there that makes you wanna do bigger and better work haha. It's a very intimidating city i think, in a very good way.

You also had a show last summer at HVW8 gallery in L.A., i saw it, amazing art works, paints, and of course those huge paints outside… How did you do with the crew and the place to present the exhibition ?

P : I have been working with Tyler Gibney (HVW8) gallery for about 5 years now, the last show was the 4th one in his gallery. I love it there because he is a close friend who always supported my work, i always stay at his house for way too long haha! Whn i do the shows in LA i
prefer to make the work in LA, the last time my good friend Jamie Strong at IL (innovative Leisure records)  and Zeke trejo (Vantage print) were so nice to give me a part of their warehouse to paint and make all the work. For some reason LA calms me down and i find it a perfect place to create new work. I also like sitting in the car looking at the LA land & city scape's. I don't have a driving licence so i'm never in a car in Amsterdam but in LA it's all you do haha, but i enjoy it for some weird reason, its like going in a ride at an attraction park without the loopings...haha

I was also lucky too to be in S.F. at the MOCA SF last spring… I saw your huge B&W piece there. More than amazing too. I was really impressed. All this fine art, those figures, those letters, and a very nice message… How did they contact you and what was your approach ?

P : Joseph Becker who is a curator at the SF MoMa got in touch about 2 year before the show happened, he liked my work and visited a couple of shows and visited me in Amsterdam at my studio too. after a long time he dropped the question if i wanted to make work for this 60ft wall in the museum. I was outside myself of happiness ! It was cool working with Joseph because he really was involved in the piece i was making, first we thought of doing about 20 prints on that wall, but he asked me one day what i thought about one big image for the wall. i thought it was a great idea so i started to work on it. The format of the wall was new for me because i never made something in that weird long and wide format. it took some time, but once i had the idea for the text it came together nicely. the text is 'She was alone most of the time, she got Weirded out Easily'. It was inspired by Kate Bush music and a bit by myself huh.

You stayed there in recent times so would you say you prefer S.F., L.A. or NYC ?

P : I prefer LA, like a said earlier, it feels like a weird calm and warm attraction park on a slow day. Also because i'm a skateboarder to the core, it has this magical aura about it, it was once considered the mecca of skateboarding by myself and i think i still romanticize LA in that way. I still get exited by waxed curd or a bank to wall in a parking spot, feels like i'm in an early nineties VHS skate video... I'm getting old! haha

What other places would you like to go for a show and present your art if you could choose : China ? Japan ? Brazil ? South-Africa ? I know you like to travel and meet people. Tell us more…

P : I would like to back to Japan again ! i have been there a couple of times and i start to really love it there but i just touched the surface, i want to see more of the country and try to understand the people better. I think they have such a nice and peaceful culture there. I really feel safe and at easy in Tokyo, which is kind of weird because it is such a huge city! I will probably try and organize something there next year with my agents Lyntaro Wajima and Mitsuo Tomonori. Would love to see other country's too but i like to go back to the same place for a couple of years, i like routine i guess haha... And the last years it has been LA and Tokyo.

For those who doesn't know yet about you, could you let me know a bit about your past please : like were you come from, how did you grew up, your kid & teenage years… i mean, how did you had this path that helps create who you were to become as a man and a artist ?

P : It's a long and slight ly boring story so i will break it down in a few words. I was born in the south of holland Maastricht, grew up in several small towns. My father was an artist, painter, sculptor… He was a huge influence. I got into skateboarding at age 12. Even huger influenced by skate boardings art, magazines adverts and photos, clothing etc. I realized i was never gonna be a US pro at 22 shah so i moved to Amsterdam, started doing graphic design work, was not so good at it, started drawing instead of typing letter, that worked out and gradually became the style i have today !

Skateboarding is as you said a very huge influence for you. Could you explain more ? I think sometime, even people from our generation or younger, don't really realize…

P : As i said, it's really my biggest influence next to my artist father. Especially the early nineties of skateboarding, Big brother Magazine, World industries, Girl, Blind, all the really good independent early small company stuff, black and white ads, small wheels, huge pants… I really had the feeling i belonged to this underground cult that nobody knew about. The cult had a weird dress code though, really big jeans XXL tshirts and pink eighties style Puma'… All the stuff that is pretty mainstream now was pioneered back then, we took the punches! haha

What were your first artistic "shocks" : Dutch historic art painters ? Pop art ? Music art ? Graffiti ? Skate art ? All this ? How did it help you to become what you are today ?

P : I think my fathers art, just seeing him busy working on new stuff everyday. one day he would be painting a canvas and the next day he would be making a wooden table whilst making a sculpture with an axe and an old tree trunk. He never worked for a boss or anything, was always very free, lived on the countryside and lived very private. he still does this today! haha. I think i grew up being like his very much but i changed the countryside for the city

You're amongst those young contemporary artists who can do very specific graphic design works, also paint, also do big murals, also have a brand (Rockwell), and do all those astonishing collabos (Nike, Patta, Kid Robot, Sixpack…), what is the "secret of your success" ? Please, let us know how all those is one love for you… I mean how have you come with this vibrant unique style and work on all those projects then ?

P : Man, to be honest it just happened, there was no grand plan. I think i wanted all sorts of thing when i started, i was all over the place, not grown up yet, and one day i wanted to be an artist but also a dj / producer a graphic designer and an illustrator oh and i wanted to have a clothing line too! Over the years growing up i filtered out the stuff i really liked to do and focused on that, if i learned anything is that i really had no clue yet in my early twenties, i'm 37 now and i just start to understand myself a bit, and the stuff i really think is important to
me. i wish i was 23 with the knowledge i have now, that would be great haha ! Also the style i have also formed naturally over the years, i think from the start i was making very simple work that at the time was very weird looking and 'new' so i had a bit of advantage that my work caught on very early, it allowed me to work on my style more and more, get better at it.

You are also amongst those who came with style and success from graphism & paint to sculpture… How hard was it to do this ? How is the
result for you ?

P : It is a natural change, you can only do so much club flyer's or record cover you know haha, at a certain point i started to create stuff just for myself and i think that is when i started to realize what i should be doing and what means more to me. I was distracted by so much stuff when i was younger, going out to clubs was very important and hanging around certain people and scenes, it was a really great time, lots of ground work was done and nice people were met in that period, but now i feel calmer, more at ease with myself not running around in circles too much and i think the new work comes from this new calm feeling. This sounded very pretentious, sorry!

How Rockwell is important for you : what does it represent and how is it doing nowadays ?

P : Every year since i started 10 year ago it with my partner Alexander Rommens i think now its gonna end! i will think that people had enough of it, it looks the same every time etc etc. But for some reason it keeps on going and now even stronger than before! i think it has a lot to to of what i described in the previous question. Rockwell grew up just like Alexander and me did, we now know what the strong points are and what we shouldn't do. i just keep Rockwell very personal and close to my chest.  It is meant to be a small brand that a few people know and wear with pride, just like the feeling i had wearing my Puma states in 92, when it was not cool yet.

Many people from all ages, conditions and areas instantly love what they see when facing your art… Not taking yourself too much seriously in this incredible dutch style, passion, dedication, humour & funny lil'things, brotherhood, peace full mood, coolness but also provocative messages/senses are surely part of it. How would you explain all this today ?

P : I think it comes from when i started doing my flyers and record covers and first tshirts, i wanted to please the client you know, i wanted people to wear my designs on a shirt, my work was very client driven, commissioned work so to speak. Although i make free work now i think i
still want to please the viewer. Maybe when i'm 60 i don't care about that and i will only paint blue and red dots haha!

Whatssup with your band LeLe ?

P : We made an album last year ! Nobody seems to know this haha that usually means it flopped right ? It was called 'Party Time' (in an ironic way, look up the artwork) after a year break we are starting to get enthusiastic again to make new songs, we were just in the studio a couple of days ago, so new album will be coming maybe early 2014 hopefully!

You gonna be in Marseille soon… What could we expect from Parra there please ?

P : huh! i don't know yet! but you gave me a lovely wall to create a piece for and i will try and do my best to outshine the SF MoMa mural!

What are your other projects for 2013 ?

P : I have 2 more shows in Europe coming up for this year one in Milan at Patricia Armocida gallery and one in Cologne in a gallery called Ruttkowski 68 Milan will be end of may and cologne end oktober. Next year probably LA and Japan again. And there will be a couple of sculpture project with Case Studyo coming up too!

- 2 favorite all time music bands & artists :
The Cure
- 2 favorite all time artists :
Roy Liechtenstein
Hieronymus Bosch
- 2 favorite graffiti artists :
Boris 'Delta' Tellegen
Niels 'Shoe' Meulman
- 2 favorite movies :
The gagreel from Step brothers
PLan B - Questionable (sorry it's a skate movie haha!)
- 2 favorite museums :
Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, NL
Kröller-müller museum in Otterlo, NL


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