Above the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip, a giant Gibson guitar stands, beckoning the crowd below to enter and hear rock music as loud as the guitar is tall, which is very tall indeed, at 10 feet. It’s a new, crazy sight on a road that is famous for its odd architecture and famous billboards, and its creator lives here in Santa Barbara.
R. Nelson Parrish doesn’t usually go for things guitar-shaped in his artwork, despite coming from a family with a background in Gibson guitars (his grandfather and uncle both played and owned them). His art since his 2005 MFA at UCSB has been about “totems,” long, multicolored boards of resin, paint and wood that combine the minimal aesthetic of John McCracken’s planks with a SoCal lifestyle of surfboards and skis. (It was the vision of them pitched upright in sand or snow that revealed their totem-like potential.) The work looks both familiar — the colors come straight out of sporting gear — and strange.