This latest wave of street art continues to impact the mainstream gallery system. Once considered untrained illustrators and outsiders, these so-called “street artists” have proven their ability, time and again, to reduce, abstract, and conceptualize with the same alacrity as anyone else in contemporary art. Eric Inkala is emerging as one of today’s top crossover talents.

He hails from Minneapolis, but has called Brooklyn home for the last six years. Inkala has done murals in a number of major U.S. cities, though his smaller, gallery-made works have gotten the most attention recently.

Inkala cites graffiti forebears like Keith Haring and Doze Green as influences; he also points to older modernists like Willem de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein, all of whom bear an imprint on Inkala’s style. His characters and shapes are hard edged like Lichtenstein, though they droop and turn with the control of a distinct hand, ala de Kooning.

Besides graffiti, Inkala also draws from hot rod pinstriping and the pop surrealism of Ren & Stimpy, Basil Wolverton, and, more recently, Erik Parker. There’s also the disoriented scale of Mark Hogensen’s illusory shapes. Inkala funnels these and other influences¬†into a style which he controls and manipulates freely.

The overall look¬†is illustrative, whimsical, and a little ambiguous. Works from 2012 stack calligraphy like Mark Tobey meets Von Dutch. Inkala’s more recent paintings (seen above) point to a kind of constructivism in the midst of the pop culture onslaught. It’s dizzying, sure, but stand back, take a deep breath, and the puzzle starts making sense.

See one of Inkala’s work now at the Joseph Gross Gallery‘s summer group show. (Brian Chidester)