I want to be profoundly touched by art, by life. I came to painting at the time of its death, not to breathe its last breath, but to caress its lifelessness. The necromancy of the pietà, Pollock’s One, times with the birth of a synthetic star, 1958 BLACK PAINTINGS, DEATH & DISASTERS, modernism at its most powerful, before the point where circuses began. (S. Parrino, The No Texts, 2003, p. 37).
Skarstedt presents Steven Parrino: Paintings & Drawings 1986 – 2003, an exhibition marking the first solo exhibition of Parrino’s work at Skarstedt, at the second and newly opened Upper East Side location at 19 East 64th Street, New York.
Radical in both popular culture and the avant-garde, Parrino was fueled by an appetite for destruction. In the late seventies, he began attacking, slashing, tearing, and twisting the canvas, disrupting the traditional Greenbergian celebration of flatness. With an uncompromisingly nihilist attitude, Parrino in many ways mirrored the rebellions of the American punk music scene and subcultures, translating that chaotic spirit in his work. Yet despite the embrace of chaos, his keen awareness and understanding of modernism, semiotics, and the theoretical texts of minimalists such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella, awoke the possibilities of painting as an object or a real fact.
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Parrino’s Crow-Bar Piece serves as an example of his synthesis of the two most significant movements in modernism: abstract expressionism and the monochrome tradition. The black painting is altered, violated and attacked, translating Pollock’s action to destruction. The corruption of the flat surface of the monochrome only re-affirms its energy and vitality. Parrino speaks on his process, stating, “By unstretching the canvas, I could pull and contort the material and reattach it to the stretcher, in effect, misstretching the painting, altering the state of the painting. The painting was, in a sense, deformed. This mutant form of deformalized painting gave me a chance to speak about reality through abstract painting, to speak about life” (S. Parrino, Altered States: American Art in the 90s, 1995, p. 7).
First exhibited in 1995 at Art & Public in Geneva, Parrino’s Amphetamine Monster-Mill series of black and white photo-collages contribute to the artist’s visual world and subculture, supporting the sentiments of his abstract work. The collages are akin to Parrino’s interest in comic books and graphic novels, which can be identified throughout his career. Publishing his own graphic novel in 2002, titled Exit Dark Matter, entitling works after notable superheroes such as Silver Surfer from 1987, and finally, Black Noise, the posthumous comic book homage to Parrino – all impress the love he had for the medium.
Steven Parrino: Paintings & Drawings 1986 – 2003 is the first exhibition in the artist’s native New York City since 2007. It explores and celebrates the artist, his work, and the continuation of his legacy. In his own words, Parrino writes, “Most are afraid of total freedom, of nothingness, of life. You try to control everything, but nature is uncontrollable. It doesn’t matter how you express yourself (words, image, electric guitar), what matters is that you have something to express” (S. Parrino, The No Texts, 2003, p. 34).
Steven Parrino was born in New York in 1958. He received his BFA in 1982 from Parsons School of Design, New York. Parrino’s work has been exhibited in museums and exhibitions worldwide: Power Station, Dallas TX, 2017; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, 2009; Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2007; Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2007; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2006; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, 2005–07; PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, 2005; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany, 2005; Le Consortium, Dijon, France, 2004; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2003; Massimo De Carlo Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 2003; Nuremberg Museum, Germany, 2002; Swiss Institute, New York, 2002; Contemporanea, Milan, 2001; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, 2000; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, 2000.Steven Parrino, For Pierre Huber, 1990. Acrylic on canvas 96 x 84 inches 244 x 213.3 cm. Signed and dated S. Parrino 1990 (on the stretcher)
Steven Parrino, Death in America #3, 2003. Acrylic on canvas and gesso 107 x 72 inches 270 x 180 cm. Signed and titled Steven Parrino [Death in America] #3 (on the stretcher)
Steven Parrino, SKELETAL IMPLOSION #2, 2001. Enamel on canvas 84 x 84 inches 213.4 x 213.4 cm. Signed and dated Steven Parrino 2001 (on the stretcher); stamped STEVEN PARRINO (on lower right edge)
Steven Parrino, China de Sade, 1987. Acrylic on canvas 70 7/8 x 55 1/8 inches 180 x 140 cm. Signed, dated and titled S.Parrino 1987 China de Sade (on the stretcher); stamped STEVEN PARRINO (on the lower right)
Steven Parrino, Blue Idiot, 1986. Acrylic and enamel on canvas 72 x 48 inches 182.9 x 121.9 cm. Signed, titled and dated Blue Idiot S. Parrino 1986 (on the stretcher); stamped STEVEN PARRINO (on lower right edge)