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Steven Parrino (1958-2005)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
Steven Parrino (1958-2005)

Devil's Day

Steven Parrino (1958-2005)
Devil's Day
signed and dated 'Steven Parrino 1995' (on the stretcher)
enamel and gesso on canvas
48 7/8 x 48 x 6 ¼in. (124 x 122 x 16cm.)
Executed in 1995
Galleria Massimo de Carlo, Milan.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 14 May 2009, lot 338.
D’Amelio Terras Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010.
New York, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Stripped, Tied and Raw, 2010.
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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord

Lot Essay

With its glossy, crumpled red surface draped across a square stretcher frame, Devils Day (1995) is a hard-hitting example of Steven Parrino’s iconic ‘misshaped paintings.’ Blending astute formalism with a distinctly punk counterculture aesthetic, Parrino tore, crushed and folded his works to transform them into radical, sculptural objects. Devils Day, painted in enamel and gesso on slack canvas, appears to have been grabbed and twisted: a central square of scarlet is torqued to the left, dripping gently in all directions and seemingly dragging its surrounding swathes of off-white raw canvas out from behind the stretcher bars. Those voluminous, gleaming red folds lend the work a baroque sensuality in tune with its suggestively infernal title, even as it pays homage to the austere language of monochrome Minimalism. The effect is both lush and nihilistic, rakish and coolly serious. As Jerry Saltz has observed, the violence Parrino visited upon the taut canvas of painterly tradition was ultimately born of love for his medium. ‘Parrino didn’t want to annihilate painting. He came of age, he said, when “the word on painting was ‘Painting is Dead.’ I saw this as an interesting place for painting … and this death painting thing led to a sex and death painting thing … that became an existence thing.” All this sounds bad-boy and romantic, but that “existence thing” at the end is crucial. He vividly demonstrates that no matter what you do to a canvas – slash, gouge, twist or mutilate it – you can’t actually kill it’ (J. Saltz, ‘The Wild One’, New York Magazine, 28 October 2007).

Emerging alongside the ‘Neo-Geo’ and Appropriation artists of 1980s New York, Parrino brought a keen critical eye to bear upon his work. Works like Devil’s Day take up a long tradition of ‘destroying the painting’ that has its roots in mid-century Italy, from Lucio Fontana’s slashed Spatialist canvases to the the burnt Arte Povera works of Alberto Burri and Piero Manzoni’s pleated, fossilised ‘Achromes’. They engage, too, with the Sixties philosophy of arch-Minimalist Donald Judd, who demanded a severe art of ‘specific’ and ‘aggressive’ objecthood; they also echo the seductive crushed automobile sculptures of John Chamberlain and the muscle-car ‘Hoods’ of Parrino’s contemporary Richard Prince, who shared his Pictures Generation interest in exploring American subcultures as a mode of artistic vernacular. Ultimately, Parrino saw his works as a form of realism, rupturing the pristine illusions of the picture plane with a rock-and-roll punch of menace, beauty and truth. ‘By unstretching the canvas,’ he said, ‘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, quoted in Altered States: American Art in the 90s, exh. cat. St. Louis, Forum for Contemporary Art, 1995, p. 7).

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