Steve Parrino at the Gagosian, Non-Declarative Art on Wooster Street

Recommendations by R.C. Baker

Here are Eros and Thanatos to beat the band—large, black-enameled canvases that have been painted while tautly stretched, then wrenched off and loosely stapled back on, creating shadowy valleys and gleaming ridges. These works combine the stiffness of erection with the frenzy of the "little death," followed by the flaccid realization that you didn't flame out at the height of ecstasy after all but are left to grub around for your next wild ride. In this scrumptious show of slashed, bent, and twisted canvases, you can feel Parrino manhandling postwar art movements—Pollock's gestural dance, Stella's monochromes, Warhol's fabulous fatalism—with a lover's passion. Spin-Out Vortex (2000) is a six-foot-square canvas that has been yanked off its bars and then reattached with a four-foot-wide hole in the center; the black surface sags and gathers like an oil spill draining into the white void. If Parrino's paintings are anonymous sex—dark, unknown thrills with the possibility of a nasty end—his drawings suggest tortured relationships: The outlines of four high-steppin' gals converge into a Busby Berkeley–like swastika; thick drips of enamel on crinkled vellum sheets are juxtaposed with photos of vintage vixens in tightly cinched bondage gear. Let's give the artist—who died at age 46 in a motorcycle crash on New Year's morning, 2005—the last word: "Art of this kind is more cult than culture."

'Non-Declarative Art'

The work in this typically well-selected group show, while materially abject—interoffice envelopes, crossword puzzles clipped from newspapers—delivers smart abstractions and conceptual jousts. Jeff Feld hews small but densely textured vistas from interoffice mail, as if journeying to landscapes far off a Manhattan messenger's usual route. Jered Sprecher paints gouache on yellowed newsprint; in one piece, a white globe obscures a crossword grid, the circle cropped flat on one side while bulging out of others, eclipsing the puzzle. Steven Lowery brings a logorrheic frenzy to his mixed-media works, cramming colorfully lettered words and phrases onto every centimeter of the surfaces. These are further enlivened by titles such as I've Got the Plan C and Step Out of the Space Provided, which features thousands of tiny words piled up in chromatic bands like a millennia's worth of silt. The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster, 212-219-2166, through October 18.

The manhandler: an untitled 1992 piece by Steven Parrino
Steven Parrino, courtesy of the Gagosian Gallery
The manhandler: an untitled 1992 piece by Steven Parrino

Details

Steven Parrino
Gagosian Gallery
980 Madison Avenue
Through November 3

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