Critics’ Picks

Steven Parrino, SKELETAL IMPLOSION #2, 2001, enamel on canvas, 84 x 84".

New York

Steven Parrino

Skarstedt Gallery | New York E 64
19 E 64th Street
May 13–July 15, 2019

The rigorous yet raw paintings and collages of the late artist and musician Steven Parrino (1958–2005) adorn this posh townhouse space. His cool brand of nihilism was a hard sell for many galleries until after his death. Spanning the years 1986 to 2003, his well-known monochromes—crudely twisted, restretched, or sometimes removed entirely from their supports—are the main focus here.

The permutations of Parrino’s “damaged” canvases show us that he was always searching for new solutions to what a painting could be by manipulating it to the extreme. Death in America #2, 2003, for example, features a silver rectangle of acrylic paint with fierce and deep horizontal folds surrounded by raw canvas, while SKELETAL IMPLOSION #2, 2001, has black-and-white stripes on a circular stretcher, aggressively bunched up. Both create the effect that they had once been destroyed, failed works, salvaged from a trash can. SPIN-OUT VORTEX (BLACK HOLE), 2000, includes a tilted black square, à la Kazimir Malevich, punctured by a void. For what could be mundane, conceptual exercises, Parrino imbues his works with enough eccentricity that each painting stands on its own.

Parrino’s small-scale collages of black-and-white photographs evoke his abject roots, revealing that he was as indebted to Richard Hell as he was to Ellsworth Kelly. Pieced together with gaffer and duct tape, they contain snippets of vintage pornography, crime scenes, horror films, icons of punk music like the Plasmatics, and images of art-world mavericks including Vito Acconci. It might not be exactly punk to see Parrino’s art in the context of Skarstedt’s luxurious environment, but as the Misfits’ recent reunion shows have shown, swimming in the mainstream has its advantages.