Behind the Scenes: PoP Goes the DarKroom

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
    W.E. Arnold, left, and Joss Parker in front of pieces for “PoP Goes the DarKroom.”
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From the January 3, 2013 edition

In Joss Parker’s studio at 400 West Rich, Donkey Kong sits perched on the Brooklyn Bridge; a cloaked Bart Simpson scales down a brick wall; and a Street Fighter warrior walks the streets of Shanghai.

Art fans have been able to immerse themselves in Parker’s world of pop for a while now (he’s all over Mac Worthington and the now-shuttered 83 Gallery). It’s a world where sarcasm and aerosol happily engulf sentimentality with irreverent charm.

But for these recent pieces, Parker picked a new partner in POW!

That photo of the Brooklyn Bridge Donkey Kong is preparing to smash? The brick wall trampled by a Simpson? The Chinese street? W.E. Arnold, an abstract street photographer, took all of those images.

Arnold and Parker go through Arnold’s old film and prints and come up with stories for different images. Parker then does his signature stenciling and painting over the image.

The two will exhibit around 25 of those team efforts as well as 30 individually made artworks each at Gallery 831’s January exhibit “PoP Goes the Darkroom.”

It all started when Arnold dropped a photograph of New York, leaving it wet and seemingly ruined. Why not, he decided, play with the image so it wasn’t a total waste.

“Putting a Godzilla on it just matured from there,” Parker said.

The juxtaposition of Parker’s characters, at once funny, bold and nostalgic, and Arnold’s images, serious, thoughtful and evocative, breathes new life into each artist’s work.

“It makes [our art] a lot more relatable to people,” said Arnold, adding that the images sell between $20 and $300. “They’re so eye-catching and are easy to grasp and hold on to.”

They are definitely memorable. The balance of the two aesthetics is such that a bit of depth is added to both Parker and Arnold. It becomes difficult to imagine one without the other… or at least less fun.

“It’s two things that you don’t think can go together,” Parker said. “The greatest experience is seeing the freshness of it.”

Witnessing a gun-wielding Robert De Niro stenciled atop a beautiful black and white photograph of a building-lined street doesn’t hurt either.