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Artist Bill Schwarz, who knew the late painter Steven Parrino
well, posts some thoughts and corrections of the newsprint accounts of Parrino's life and untimely passing here
. One thing's sure: if Roberta Smith of the New York Times
doesn't like your work, you'd be very lucky not to have her write your obit. Her tribute
is how shall we say...affectless? merely descriptive? The closest it comes to a value judgment is saying the work had a "relentless if oddly energetic punk nihilism," a collection of adjectives and adverbs that give off a nice crackle but probably cancel each other out. The New York Post
obit supplied the info that Parrino was "a little bit of a loner" who "didn't like crowds or parties." The police told a friend of Parrino's they believe that his motorcycle hit a pothole on Kent Ave., just a block away from his studio. In other words, an accident that could happen to anybody, especially with New York sized potholes. Yet by saying he "lost control" of his cycle "returning from a New Year's Eve party in Williamsburg," Smith creates the clear implication that...well, what does that imply to you? A journalist can be perfectly factual and still smear through the omission of detail. Thus are "bad boy" legends born, one supposes.
Bill says: "Parrino's destruction of unsold paintings has a wholly different meaning from the destructive editing activities of precedential modernists like de Kooning and Baldessari." He doesn't elaborate, but I think what he's talking about was, Baldessari famously destroyed his early, painterly paintings before embarking on his career as a conceptualist, but it's a fair guess he hasn't destroyed much since then. Whereas Parrino constantly cannibalized unsold work to make new--it was evident right there in the rubble pile at your feet. This was a very cool thing. I had a hard time with the "signature" canvases conspicuously torn off the stretcher, wadded up, and rehung--they seemed angry about something not worth getting angry about, which is to say, painting on canvas. (I'm open to having my mind changed by a retrospective.) He did do some beautiful paintings in that style, though (see above) and his career commitment to The Dark Side in his video, music and zine-making was likewise exquisite. I remember he organized some event nights at Team that included a screening of Dario Argento's Suspiria
and also introduced Shell
to the art world. Also very cool.
He will be missed, New York Times