With its glossy, crumpled black surface draped across a stretcher frame, N.Y.C. H.C. F.T.W. (New York City Hard Core Fuck The World) (1995) is a hard-hitting example of Steven Parrino’s iconic ‘misshaped paintings’.
Born in New York in 1958, Parrino lived and breathed hardcore. He played in several downtown noise bands. In one work, titled Guitar Grind (1995), he dragged his bass against an electric guitar, making the two instruments scream through the amplifiers. For the 2001 installation 13 Shattered Panels (for Joey Ramone), he sledgehammered slabs of black plasterboard in tribute to one of his heroes.
The artist’s rebel mystique has only increased since his death in 2005, aged 46, in a late-night motorbike crash.
In tune with his musical influences, Parrino found creative potential in disruption and destruction. Blending cool formalism with a distinctly counterculture aesthetic, he tore, crushed and folded his paintings to transform them into radical, sculptural objects.
‘I could pull and contort the material and reattach it to the stretcher, in effect mis-stretching the painting, altering the state of the painting’ — Steven Parrino
Works like N.Y.C. H.C. F.T.W. 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 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, while also echoing the seductive crushed automobile sculptures of John Chamberlain and the muscle-car ‘Hoods’ of Parrino’s contemporary Richard Prince, who shared his interest in the vernacular of American subcultures.
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Like Prince, and like other ‘Neo-Geo’ and Appropriation artists of 1980s New York, Parrino wanted to break down the barrier between life and art. Rupturing the pristine illusions of the picture plane with a rock’n’roll punch, he ultimately saw his works as a mode of realism.
‘By unstretching the canvas,’ he explained, ‘I could pull and contort the material and reattach it to the stretcher, in effect mis-stretching the painting, altering the state of the painting.
‘The painting was, in a sense, deformed. This mutant form of deformalised painting gave me a chance to speak about reality through abstract painting, to speak about life.’
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