When it comes to art, being understated is often overrated. In major galleries across the globe, more often than not, less doesn’t mean more. Sometimes being too minimal can simply reveal that an artist is taking short cuts by using sparse motifs or color combinations that don’t work hard enough to convey a message—let alone capture the eye, the mind or the heart. Artist John Parot has no problem when it comes to provoking and pleasing all of the above. Instilling a sense of exuberance, instinct and craftsmanship into his work, Parot’s ornate drawings and paintings—which regularly employ geometric shapes and high-voltage shades—are having their moment in the sun. Aside from being praised by The New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune for standing out in a sea of sameness, Parot has a newfound breed of collectors hankering to acquire his work.
Yet according to the artist, making one piece takes months, sometimes years, since Parot meticulously cherry-picks and modifies his palettes. “I hand mix all my shades carefully so you can see definable tones and contrasts,” Parot says from his home in Los Angeles. “I also use special archival paint that won’t fade because I want these works to live long after I’m gone,” he adds. The hues he chooses are inspired by Indian miniature paintings, dating back to 750 A.D. “That kind of ancient, timeless-yet-iridescent quality is something I’m always striving for,” he adds. “Well, that and making sure my personality is right there on the canvas.”
Using California as a main source of inspiration, Parot’s most recent paintings, drawings and collages reflect the urgency and vibrancy of his surroundings. His latest works, titled The Orange Series, has him reimagining So-Cal’s flora in neighborhoods such as Silver Lake, Malibu and Los Feliz. His process includes hours of observation and sketching, while studying the landscape from sunup to sundown. “L.A. is an artist’s dream,” he says. “There’s a powerful juxtaposition that only exists in this metropolis because it has this busy, big-city energy with a cool tropical backdrop. You get all this intense vegetation alongside bold graphic design—sky-high Hollywood billboards with their bright lights and punchy fonts hover among beautiful citrus and palm trees. That mix says so much about all the natural and unnatural desires that make up L.A.”
Parot’s cerebral take on California’s lushest spaces has given the artist a legendary—and mystical—status of sorts. Part of this is due to the way he exhibits his work. While his earlier shows were at venerable institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Frieze New York, Parot now presents much of his art in his own
“open studio” events. At these exclusive, intimate appointments, Parot personally invites collectors into his workspace to survey his process, mood boards and influences. His archive includes stacks of interior design magazines from the ’70s, photos of Neo Geo decor, swatches of Pendleton wool blankets, samples of Moroccan tiles, vintage ads from Gucci and Missoni and in the center of the studio hangs a tomato red print from Henri Matisse’s cut-out series. Whenever he is stuck on an idea he turns to two of his heroes, who have dealt with the ups and downs of the art industry. These are luminaries like textile and furniture designer Alexander Girard (“He taught me that you can have a multi-hyphenate creative life.”) and artist Joyce Kozloff, a former art teacher from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Drawing, and a founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement. “Joyce revolted against minimalism because it was getting so boring and played out,” he says.
Aside from the great masters, Parot also gets invigorated by leading tours of his studio. “When you make art, it’s like a snake shedding its skin. It’s the most honest thing you can do, so why not talk about it?” he says. “When I’m speaking with someone one-on-one about art I’ve made, it’s a thrill for me. I can gauge a person’s taste and go back into storage and pull out something I made years ago that can light up another idea and be really suitable for a collector. Galleries never have access to that history.” It’s a process Parot believes should be as sincere as the work itself. “Buying a painting or drawing should be a conversation with no secrets, no trickery and no agenda,” he says. “At the end of the day, when you buy art, it’s about more than just money or aesthetics, it’s an exchange of truth.”