The elusive, LA-based contemporary artist is taking the art world by storm, and Barnebys sits down with his Stockholm gallerist to discuss the appeal of Ito's works, why art from LA is trending right now and what is next for the young creative.
He hasn’t done an interview in several years, and he doesn’t appear in photographs. His works include paintings, installations, sculptures, ceramics, videos, and digitally rendered images. His idiom is untamed, expressive, and dispassionate, all at once. Parker Ito, who was born in California in 1986, is an artist who stands out even in the crowded, hectic art scene of Los Angeles, and who has had shows in New York, Paris and London. A year ago, he was introduced to the Stockholm audience in the group exhibition LA Dreams at CFHILL. Now, he returns to show a new series of works. Barnebys asked his gallerist CFHILL’s Michael Elmenbeck, about the enigmatic artist.
Why do you think Parker Ito has received such powerful emotional responses from the art audience?
Whenever a young artist refuses to conform to the expectations of a particular style or medium, a certain amount of unrest is bound to follow. Parker Ito goes against the stream. Everything his gaze rests on, be it genuine urban landscapes, flickering screens, everyday life, or internal images of invisible private associations and world-spanning structures, gets thrown into the mix. That’s what characterizes his “style”. It’s a philosophical attitude, and several highly influential people in art, including Palais de Tokyo founder Nicolas Bourriaud, have said that Parker Ito’s elements proliferate and surge. I think Ito’s works strike many as expressing something that is very distinctive of the present times. Others might experience this as something akin to an electric shock.
Could you share your own thoughts on what precisely it is that the viewer encounters here?
First and foremost, I find myself absolutely seduced. It’s as though he had added an electrical patina to everything, whether it be a glitched still life of a flower in a painting, an installation consisting of LED lights and chains, or a video. There is a beauty here that brings to mind the perishable nature of things. Having powerful emotions of joy and a lust for life awakened by a thing of beauty or sorrow is a deeply human experience. Ito’s skill is evident in the way he makes these timeless experiences seem so contemporary.
Parker Ito works in Los Angeles, where he was born. However, he relates to LA not so much as a physical location as in a way that makes it seem that he is the city. Could you say something about that?
In purely factual terms, what we’re seeing is Los Angeles. The view from his studio window, and places he drives or skateboards past. He was a skateboarder in his past life, after all. Apart from that, I think it’s a generational thing. For his generation, the binary and the analogue are equivalent in a way that is very difficult for people my own age and over to appreciate fully. Parker, who lives just a stone’s throw away from both the Dream Factory and Silicon Valley, has a front-row seat from which to view and interpret the movements of the zeitgeist.
Why has CFHILL been showing so much art from the USA, and LA in particular, lately?
It’s simply what interests us right now. There hasn’t been much art from there shown in Stockholm in the past, and it is a global hot spot, with a constant stream of newly opened museums and galleries. Its history parallels that of New York, only slightly edgier; it’s a little more exciting and richer in surprises.
What kind of collectors do you expect to be drawn to his works?
All kinds. Naturally, I think younger collectors might have an easier time relating to the many-layered nature of these works, but I also think Parker Ito’s expressions have a very classic and broad appeal. Several institutions have already included his works in their collections, a solid sign that he is considered a resilient artist despite his young age. Visually, his works are very appealing, so they would go well in a hotel lobby or a private home.