STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)
STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)
STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)
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STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)
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STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)

Untitled

Details
STEVEN PARRINO (1958-2005)
Untitled
signed and dated 'St. Parrino '90' (on the stretcher)
acrylic and enamel on canvas
72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 1990.
Provenance
Galerie Rolf Ricke, Cologne
Anon. sale; Phillips de Pury & Company, London, 13 October 2007, lot 236
Pierre Huber, Geneva
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Steven Parrino: Paintings & Drawings 1986-2003, pp. 34-35 (illustrated).

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Lot essay

All my work deals with disrupting the status quo.”

Steven Parrino

With its lustrous, almost incandescent, surface and signature folds, Untitled by Steven Parrino is a bold early example of the artist’s iconic paintings. The work’s central fiery orange core, vividly rendered in enamel and acrylic, folds over itself as if it had been yanked askew. A single band of empty canvas bounds the blazing orange. Executed in 1990, Untitled marks Parrino’s professional ascent: it was painted just after the artist was included in the exhibition The Art of the Real held at Galerie Pierre Huber, Geneva, where his canvases were featured alongside works by Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella, to whom Parrino’s paintings are often compared. Like his Minimalist forebearers, Parrino’s work investigates the properties of painting, but whereas Stella questioned a painting’s flatness through geometric shapes, Parrino upends the canvas’s own inherent properties. Indeed, the ripples and folds of Untitled reveal the artist’s physically intensive artistic process: he would begin these works by coating a bare canvas in paint, which he then tugged and pulled to release from its stretcher bars. Parrino referred to this act as a “deformalism,” explaining that by “unstretching the canvas” he could “contort the material and reattach it to the stretcher, [to] in effect…alter the state of the painting” (S. Parrino quoted in J. Greenberg and B. Nickas (eds.), “Altered States: American Art in the 90s”, Forum for Contemporary Art, St. Louis, 1995, p. 7). This method, at once philosophical and savage, gave Parrino a new means to image reality, and thus, a new way “to speak about life” (Ibid.).

Parrino’s works suggest decadence and nihilism; they are swaggering, cool, austere, brazen.”

Part-sculpture/part-image, paintings such as Untitled possess textured, undulating surfaces that reimagine the medium’s formal possibilities. By limiting his palette to black, white, orange, red, blue, and silver, Parrino’s colors evoke modernity, speed, and a futuristic flame. Certainly, in his enduring commitment to the monochrome one sees traces of earlier an avant-garde. Like Lucio Fontana’s emphatic cuts and punctures, Parrino, too, engaged with color as a material and spatial consideration. While these works may resemble traditional paintings—in particular, the monochromatic vocabularies of Kazimir Malevich and Yves Klein—Parrino did not set out to produce flat images but rather “assisted readymade[s]” (B. Nickas, “Anxious Objects: Parrino, Stahl, Wachtel,” Flash Art, no. 132 (February–March 1987), pp. 101–102). By reincarnating pre-existing forms through sculptural color, his paintings his paintings collapse the boundary between image and viewer by forcing the former into the space of the latter.

Although Parrino emerged alongside the ‘Neo-Geo’ and Appropriation artists of the 1980s, he grew up in an art world dominated by anti-painting discourse; such philosophies, as espoused by Minimalist and Conceptual artists, would come to influence his developing practice. Indeed, works such as Untitled invoke Judd’s demands for a “specific” and “aggressive” objecthood: “Actual space,” Judd wrote, “is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface” (D. Judd, “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook 8, 1965). While Parrino’s canvases occupy up actual, lived space, he viewed his works not as abstractions but instead as images deeply connected to the real world. “All my work,” he wrote, “deals with disrupting the status quo (and the history of like disruptions—mainly focused on the USA between 1958 and the present time)—my lifetime” (S. Parrino quoted in V. Pécoil, “Steven Parrino: Natures Mortes Vivants,” Gagosian Quarterly, April 29, 2019, https://gagosian.com/quarterly/2019/04/29/essay-steven-parrino-natures-mortes-vivantes/). As much as his monochromes may recuperate Minimalist theories, they are less a radical manifesto than a Pop gesture.

By rendering flags, guns, and other vernacular as abstracted forms, Parrino’s canvases seem to invoke a gritty urbanism, conjuring the shiny cars of John Chamberlain or the muscle-car “Hoods” of his contemporary Richard Prince, who shared an interest in exploring American subcultures as a mode of artistic representation. Parrino’s works suggest decadence and nihilism; they are swaggering, cool, austere, brazen. By rejecting tradition while simultaneously venerating its images, his canvases view the medium’s long history through a punkish lens. As Jerry Saltz noted, the violence Parrino enacted upon the canvas was ultimately born out of his love for the 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, October 28, 2007).

Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).

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