Robert Andrew Parker
Thu Feb 15 2007
Photograph courtesy Davis & Langdale
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
“Flight,” a mini-retrospective of watercolors, drypoint etchings, books and wooden models of planes, spans three decades of Robert Andrew Parker’s prolific career. The artist and illustrator was an aeronautical engineer in WWII and his pleasure in—and knowledge of—his subject is evident. He has a confident hand and a keen sense of which techniques best suit his subjects: watercolor washes for explosions or simple lines to render figures.
The romantic imagery—fighter pilots in European settings, for example—is offset by eccentric detail. In the etching The Voisin “Aero-Chir” and Dolls, a WWI--era plane sits in a field, while a mustached man in a top hat carrying a whip strides toward the viewer as a dog and an uncannily outsized doll look on. The man and the dog cast long shadows on the green ground, while the doll’s head seems to emerge from its shadow of a body.
In the penumbral etching Handley-Page Heyford, Parachutes Over London, 1936, a plane is airborne above the cityscape, which is bifurcated by the Thames. Following the diagonal pattern of white parachutes, it’s easy to miss the lone dark figure lurking on the wing of the airplane—it’s the sort of sly detail Parker favors, rewarding close viewing. Despite his historical subject, in this and other works, the artist skirts nostalgia, envisioning a chimerical world of his own design. — David Coggins