b 1947 (UK)
Known for his provocative durational performances, British-born artist BOB PARKS is on a lifetime search for the truth. Ancient cultures, military dictatorships, method acting, gospel music and his own late mother form the heart of his all-encompassing gesamtkunstwerk. Yet it was last yearʼs acclaimed BBC documentary, The R&B Feeling, which propelled the 70 year old wunderkind into the limelight.
Born in Southhall, BOB PARKS studied art at Leicester University before moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s. His immersion in West Coast performance art brought him to the attention of contemporaries like Chris Burden and Paul McCarthy; but it was his study of Konstantin Stanislavski at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and Actor’s Studio which led him to fuse his daily life with a radical and pseudo-fictional version of himself.
In 1974 PARKS embarked on a series of citywide actions in the persona of an absurdist alter-ego, Bignose. Inspired by Indian mystic philosophy, the character alternated mundane rituals with verbal hysterias, while dressed in a yogic thong and playing an amplified fife. The performance was called: The hypocrisy of clothed men, painting naked women in Renaissance times, behind closed doors. It brought him to the attention of the infamous Chuck Barris, who invited him to perform on The Gong Show.
Holding down a series of menial jobs, PARKS became involved with South Centralʼs Starlight Church of God in Christ, where the African-American community introduced him to gospel and soul music, inspiring him to produce a series of portraits which revealed PARKS as a profound painter and image maker.
Shows in Australia, Europe and the UK were to follow. Yet at the age of 40, PARKS left Los Angeles (pop. 18 million) and returned to his parents’ home in Sway (pop. 3,448). He joined a local congregation, where his spiritual and creative practices became ever more interconnected.
In recent years, PARKS was included in 3rd Leggg at London’s ICA in 2011, and presented in a solo show at Grand Union in Birmingham in 2013. In 2016, BOB PARKS’ life and work was profiled in The R&B Feeling, co-directed by contemporary artist Nathaniel Mellors.
The Gallery of Everything is proud to present BOB PARKS’ first major UK retrospective, with paintings, drawings, sculpture and screenings which draw on his astonishing 40 year practice. The artist will be present throughout, giving performances every Sunday afternoon in the gallery.
He was unique, he wanted to lose control and to see what would happen.
John Duncan, artist
BOB is a great artist and impossible to emulate with-out living his life - but he is genuinely inspirational. At a time when there’s an excess of influence and a lak of inspiration, BOB PARKS is a kind of antidote.
Nathaniel Mellors, artist
The embodiment of extraordinary!
Cheryl Jones, Grand Union (Birmingham)
If performance art were a competitive team sport, tal-ent scouts would recognise in the British performance artist, painter and musician BOB PARKS that most lucrative and rare of qualities: natural ability. In his impulsive, unsettling and rapturous work, there is an easy, unaffected pairing of art and everyday life.
Morgan Quaintance, Frieze Magazine
We began to think, I don’t know, this guy is pretty weird.
Barbara T Smith, artist