Today sees the opening of Weirded Out at San Francisco’s MoMA. Painted by the eccentric stylings of Dutch artist Parra, this is one of his most ambitious murals to date: The anthropomorphic, boneless characters and free-form lettering that distinguish him as the cult, post-Pop designer we all know and love has been hand-painted onto a staggering 60 foot wall. We caught up with the artist and learnt all about this Kate Bush inspired work…
How did this show come about?
I was approached by Joseph Becker who is a curator at the San Francisco MoMa for architecture and design, he wanted to have a poster of mine in the collection and when that was done we kept in touch. He later visited an exhibition I did in 2010 in LA at the Arkitip project space – that show had only black and white poster work. We started talking about a commission for the museum and after a while they offered me a 60 feet wall on the second floor in the museum. It’s the first thing you see coming up the stairs, pretty nice spot.
We read that it’s your first show in a US Museum – how does that feel? Do you think your younger self would ever have believed it?
Yes it is! And no, I didn’t really see that one coming. It feels really good and at the same time kind of surreal to have a piece up a few meters away from a Lichtenstein painting.
How would you describe what you do to the west coast gallery-going public?
A hybrid between poster design, type design and figurative art? Post-Pop art?
What are the challenges involved in exhibiting your work in this way?
The biggest challenge was the size and shape of the canvas/wall, I usually prefer working in “poster” format; portrait shape so to speak. This was an extreme landscape format which I had to approach differently, there is way more going on in this piece than normally would be in a poster or painting/drawing.
What do want people to come away with after seeing the show?
That they saw something new which they’ve never seen in a museum before and that it made them happy and, at the same time, a bit confused.
Tell us about the mural you are installing…
It’s a huge 60 feet wide white wall with a variety of weirdly shaped characters revolving around the sentence: “She was alone most of the time, she got weirded out easily.” The text is inspired by Kate Bush. For some reason I listened to her entire oeuvre when making this piece back in Amsterdam, including her latest album. I started reading about her and created that line of text. It’s also a bit about me, about keeping the world at a distance and closing the curtains for three days straight.
What’s your attitude to being reviewed by art critics?
I’m curious what they will say but I think I might be more concerned what the actual visitors of the museum think of the piece. My first critic was a six-year-old American kid who said “ewe gross! Why do they show the boobies?” I hear people talking behind my back all day long literally, because the install/painting takes place when the museum is open, so it kind of feels like a sort of weird performance, haha!
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