(Birmingham, Alabama, 1939 - )
First the optical lens and then the camera had a tremendous influence on the development of art, playing a lesser or larger role as both tool and medium, remaining hidden or overt. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the American Photo-Realist painters utilized photography as a point of departure in the belief that the lens records more than the eye can perceive. They felt this capability enabled the painter and viewer to better distinguish and appreciate specific details of the world beyond our day-to-day awareness. The Photo-Realist painters did not seek to reproduce photographs precisely, but to utilize the familiarity of photographic perspective (three-dimensional space rendered from one point of view), and to physically “enlarge” the reality captured by the photograph, creating an environment that encompasses the viewer. David Parrish’s work is related to Photo-Realism, but it can more accurately be described as photographically derived, that is, suggested by photographs taken by the artist. (1) Whereas painters have traditionally used drawing to create compositional studies, Parrish uses photography, experimenting with the camera to find the right balance of elements.
He attended the University of Alabama, graduating with a BFA. In 1961 he went to New York City, later moving to Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked as a technical illustrator for NASA. In this capacity, Parrish grew accustomed to depicting industrial and aeronautical machinery. In 1970 he began to apply his expert draftsmanship in his personal work, painting highly detailed images of motorcycles. The assemblage of machine parts and shiny surfaces fascinated the artist, and the association of motorcycles with speed and freedom made the paintings popular with his audience. Parrish’s first works are “like posters, detailing the sculptural shape of the machine, the horn, the chrome.” (2) As the paintings evolved, Parrish increased their visual complexity by using photographs of the windscreens with reflections of the environment captured on their surfaces. The abstracted shapes and bright colors suggest the modernity of components made of metal, plastic, and high-tech paints.
(1) . Mitchell D. Kahan, David Parrish (Montgomery: The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 1981), p. 8.
(2) Debi Cochran, “Artist Exhibits Locally,” Decatur Daily, 12 July 1981, p. 6.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, cat. no. 101, p. 234.