Parker Ito: Interviews and Articles





Parker Ito’s show at Chateau Shatto, A Little Taste of Cheeto in the Night, is a fully-immersive, claustrophobic, phantasmagoric experience. The artist transformed a vast, multi-roomed warehouse behind the gallery with architectural interventions, punching holes in the walls and ceiling. Double-sided paintings hang from silvery chains and LED light strands, and the floors are haphazardly carpeted in astro-turf and red plush. Custom-made slippers, screen-printed buckets, ceramic figurines and action figures litter the space, sometimes in precise constructions, and at other times lying about in wait for a crushing step. Photos simply don’t do the show justice; go and see it for yourself before it closes on April 26.









Parker Ito

Sarah Nicole Prickett
Sebastian Kim

Parker Ito, Parker Cheeto, Olivia Calix, Deke McClelland Two, Julia Rob3rts, and are all, as far as Los Angeles-based artist Parker Ito is concerned, real names used to make real art. Now known almost exclusively as Parker Ito, the 28-year-old artist is currently working on a series of shows that, collectively, he sees as the second exhibition in a Parker Cheeto trilogy. (The first, “Parker Cheeto: The Net Artist [America Online Made Me Hardcore],” took place at IMO gallery in Copenhagen last year.) He’s also planning an exhibit of his 101 “Parked Domain Girl” paintings (oil canvases based on a stock image of a smiling blond with a backpack); a show of sculptures about computer printers; and a “multichannel installation.” He doesn’t sleep very much, or very well. He doesn’t read. He hates discussing his work. If we hadn’t met in the flesh to do exactly that, I wouldn’t have even been sure that it was Ito speaking—he’s often had friends or assistants conduct interviews over e-mail on his behalf.

In September 2012, Ito had his commercial breakthrough show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” at Stadium gallery in New York. The room glinted and flashed with all-surface objects, unbelievable from every angle. Photographing them was a little like Insta-gramming the moon—impossible, but you couldn’t stop wanting to try. I wanted to buy one. This past February, The Agony and the Ecstasy (2012), a wall covering made from vinyl, enamel, and 3M Scotchlite fabric, sold at Sotheby’s for more than $94,000. Suddenly, a Parker Ito fingernail was out of my price range. Critic Jerry Saltz called him a mediocrity.

It should be easy enough to locate Ito’s work in a “post-internet” bubble and leave it there, but once you start looking, you quickly see he’s not too good for that, but too much. Cosmophagy, the word Susan Sontag used to describe “the devouring of the world by consciousness,” comes to mind. His oeuvre is compulsive, insatiable. No starving artist, Ito seems rather more bulimic, as if there’s no bad-for-you image or medium he won’t eventually chew up and spit back out. When I find out he’s a supertaster (meaning he experiences the sense of taste far more intensely than most), the metaphor is complete: Ito explains that the condition makes him unable to eat anything too complex or refined, and that, like his friend Harmony Korine and his idol Jeff Koons, he prefers the salty, bland, overly processed, borderline trashy and “fake.” I met up with him for a few hours in April when he was in New York, and we ate sushi.

PARKER ITO: Is there a Google search result for your hair? I searched your name and hair came up as a suggested thing.

SARAH NICOLE PRICKETT: Probably. I’ve had a lot of different hairstyles. You seem like someone who Googles everyone you meet.

ITO: Yeah, I do.

PRICKETT: What year did you first get a computer? People have different ages, I think. You have your biological age, the age on your birth certificate, and then you have a sexual age, and then a digital age. Maybe you have an emotional age.

ITO: Well, my taste buds are like a 7-year-old’s. [laughs] I remember the internet being a thing, and not having it at my house, and then getting AOL dial-up, and having my parents put a porn filter on the computer. But I can’t remember much in general. My memory’s gotten really bad lately.

PRICKETT: Short term or long term?

ITO: Both. I’m pretty good at remembering what I have to do, though.

PRICKETT: How many things do you have to do every day?

ITO: I don’t know, 10? I don’t write anything down.

PRICKETT: So, you have the memory of a really good waitress.

ITO: Maybe. And I’m good at remembering my ideas, or at least I think I am. I don’t keep a sketchbook.

PRICKETT: Do you remember your dreams?

ITO: When I used to take prescription drugs, I had really vivid dreams and I could remember them. But now I never do.

PRICKETT: What did you take drugs for?

ITO: I have agoraphobia, and it got really severe last year. Do you have it?

PRICKETT: No, I don’t, but I think agoraphobia seems like a perfectly sane response to the absolute disgustingness of the world at times.

ITO: I see the world as a pretty positive place. With agoraphobia, I’m only in fear of fear. Like, I’m afraid of having a panic attack, and panic attacks usually happen in public places, so I’m afraid of public places. I had a panic attack on an airplane last year. They were about to take off, and I was like, “I need to get the fuck off the plane, I’m having a panic—” And they were like, “Oh my God, do you need a stretcher?” And I was like, “No, just let me off the fucking plane.” After that I went on Xanax. A lot of Xanax. I was also on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. I was a fucking zombie. It was a really dark time in my life.

PRICKETT: Were you making art?

ITO: That was the only thing I could do. The only time I felt normal was when I was making stuff.

PRICKETT: Did it change the art you made in any perceivable way?


ITO: No, I don’t think so. Well, that was right around the time that my assistants started becoming very heavily involved, because I had left California to get away from my family. [laughs] I grew up in Orange County, and my family lives in Long Beach, and at the time, I was living with my dad. My parents were—are—going through a divorce, and I was right in the middle of everything. I flipped out, and I came to New York to live here for a month. It was the worst place to fucking go, but I was under the impression that being around my family was what was stressing me out, so I came here, and then I called and e-mailed my assistants and had them work remotely for a month. In May I flew back to Los Angeles for a show, and I hadn’t even seen the work; I hadn’t touched it. I just showed up for the opening, and there were 20 paintings that I had made.

PRICKETT: How many assistants do you have?ITO: About five. I have a very different relationship with my assistants than most artists. Most artists say, “My assistants made this, but the ideas are all mine.” But sometimes my assistants come up with ideas for stuff to make, and I just say, “Okay, we’ll make it.”PRICKETT: If your assistants make something for you, are their names on it?

ITO: Well, I don’t sign my work, so nobody would sign anything.

PRICKETT: Are they well-paid?

ITO: Twenty-five dollars an hour.

PRICKETT: That’s good. Do you remember that New York Times Magazine piece written by an assistant for Jeff Koons who made the Cracked Egg painting and got paid 14 dollars an hour?

ITO: Whoa. That’s shitty.

PRICKETT: I’m shocked that none of your assistants ask you for a percentage of sales. But I think I just don’t know how the world works.

ITO: My assistants like making things, but they don’t want to put up with all the bullshit of being an artist. And I try to be a really cool boss. For my two main assistants, who have been with me longer than anyone else, I bought monogrammed velvet slippers. I bought them the Jackson Pollock Crocs. I’m getting berets made for them, and they have sweatsuits printed with some paintings we did.

PRICKETT: Were you ever someone’s assistant?

ITO: No, I’d be a fucking horrible assistant. I can’t really do anything. [laughs]

PRICKETT: Were you a good student?

ITO: In art school, yes, I was a very good student. In high school, no. And before art school, at this junior college in Orange County, I was kicked out. I was put on academic probation because I failed this math class twice. I just never showed up.

PRICKETT: I bet everyone thinks they know what your adolescence was like because they watched The O.C. growing up.

ITO: Oh, yeah. But I watched Degrassi [The Next Generation].

PRICKETT: So you were an original fan of Drake?

ITO: Yeah. Jimmy.

PRICKETT: I saw that one of your shows was titled “Nothing Was the Same (John Boehner Ramesses III).” I’m Canadian, and I find it so funny, a famous rapper being from Canada. It’s incongruous. Drake is so drastically uncool. His record label, OVO, has a blogspot page.

ITO: I’m into that. My girlfriend is in Canada now.

PRICKETT: What’s her name?

ITO: Liv Barrett. She’s also my gallerist now. We live together in Hollywood. I don’t know what you know about Hollywood, but that’s where I live. So it’s all super-fucking-eccentric rich people with giant cowboy hats, and then bums shitting on trees.

PRICKETT: That’s amazing.

ITO: It’s a weird place.

PRICKETT: It is a weird place. L.A. is so heartless and disparate to me.

ITO: Yeah, there’s no center. I like living in L.A. a lot.

PRICKETT: You drive a car, I guess.

ITO: All the time. I drive a ’98 Honda Civic. It’s a piece of shit. I’ll go to an event with a collector and there’s valet parking, and they’re in a Rolls-Royce or something, and I’m behind them in a shitty Honda full of garbage.

PRICKETT: Do you remember the first time you thought you wanted to be an artist?

ITO: Yeah. [laughs]

PRICKETT: Was it when you were watching Degrassi?

ITO: It was a little before that. I was really into skateboarding for a long time. Then I realized that I probably wasn’t going to become a professional skateboarder. I’ve only wanted to have two jobs: a professional skateboarder and an artist. I’ve actually come back to skateboarding through art. I don’t know if you know who Rob Dyrdek is. He had a show called Rob & Big that was on MTV, and now he has a show called Ridiculousness, and he’s a pro skateboarder, and he’s collecting art now. He collects my work. Through Insta-gram, I became friends with Steve Berra, who runs the Berrics, the skate place and website. It’s one of the most influential things in skateboarding right now. And Steve said he wanted to give me a pro model, like a pro board.

PRICKETT: I guess if you have a pro board, you’re a pro skateboarder.

ITO: Technically, yeah. It’s like an honorary degree. But, yeah, I read a book on Basquiat when I was 18 or 19, and I decided I wanted to be an artist.

PRICKETT: You dress well. That’s a Basquiat thing. He wore, like, Commes des Garçons suits.

ITO: Yeah, yeah, and he painted in them.

PRICKETT: He painted in them?!

ITO: All I wanted my whole life was to buy whatever I wanted.

PRICKETT: Did you grow up with money?

ITO: Fuck, no. I’m from a super-middle-class family.

PRICKETT: Define middle class. What did your parents do?

ITO: My dad works for an oil company. My mom was a hairdresser, and now she does X-rays, mammograms, stuff like that. I worked in the oil fields before I became an artist. It’s a big paranoia of mine that people think I’m from money because I’m from Orange County. I spend a lot of money on clothes now, and I go to all these fucking parties for art.

PRICKETT: Well, and you’re successful, and it’s getting harder and harder to go to school and become a successful artist if you don’t have money to start with.

ITO: That’s the other thing. A lot of artists are just rich kids. But, no, I’m in a lot of debt from school. A lot of debt.

PRICKETT: How much?

ITO: Probably 60, 70 grand. I don’t really know, to be honest. When I was in school, I got them to give me a bunch of extra money so I could buy computer software, and then I downloaded all the software for free and used the money to go shopping online.

PRICKETT: What did you buy?

ITO: Just tons of clothes.

PRICKETT: The shirt you’re wearing now, the print has the Montreal Canadiens logo on it. Did you do that on purpose because I’m Canadian?

ITO: Oh, no. It’s vintage Nicole Miller from the ’90s. I collect shirts with all-over prints, and this one seems to be Canadian-themed. It would be funny if I did it on purpose.

PRICKETT: Do you collect any other things?

ITO: I have a lot of books, I guess.

PRICKETT: What kinds of books?

ITO: Art books, books with big pictures in them. I read comics a little bit. I like Dash Shaw and Paul Pope. In my work I use a lot of images from a comic Geof Darrow did with Frank Miller called Hard Boiled. There’s an image from it on my website.

PRICKETT: Who wrote the text on your website?

ITO: Glass Popcorn. He’s a rapper who lives in Tempe, Arizona. I think he’s 17, but he got popular on the internet when he was maybe 14. His favorite artists are me and Harmony Korine. That sounds weirdly egotistical.

PRICKETT: It’s not. I loved Spring Breakers [2012] more than anything, because it was all surfaces, and everything was reflective and refracted, and you could read that movie so many ways, and [Korine] wouldn’t argue with you about any of them. He’d never admit to having an opinion on his own work, although he did say it was the first real movie he’d made.

ITO: Harmony Korine is my good friend. He’s a real artist. My girlfriend and him had a conversation in Miami, and if I remember correctly—I was pretty fucked up at the time—he said he made Spring Breakers because he was interested in the way the light in Miami looked at particular times. It wasn’t about script or storytelling; it was about lighting.

PRICKETT: Lighting is everything. I won’t go to places with bad lighting. Partly it’s vanity, but it’s also that I seek certain times of the light. Sometimes in my apartment, at sunset, the whole window will burn orange, and it’s just my favorite—it’s ecstasy. So I think that’s a perfect reason to make a film. What do you feel is your primary reason to make art?

ITO: That I want to make this shit. I want to see this thing made. The work I’m making now is a continuation of my earlier work, which includes art I made under different names, art I made in collaboration with Body by Body [a collaboration between artists Cameron Soren and Melissa Sachs], a bunch of websites I made, a bunch of video work. But people only know the reflective paintings or the dot paintings because those are at auction. Right now, I’m building an exhibition that can’t be contained by a gallery. It’s planned to take place in the fall in L.A. in a warehouse where I’ll just work for months.



Parker Ito


View of “Parker Ito: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” 2015.


Crammed into 7,500 square feet of leased space behind Château Shatto Gallery in downtown LA, Parker Ito’s current exhibition is a stunning, vertiginous private museum multiplied hundreds of times. The show is over a year in the making, and it’s not finished yet: Ito will continue amending the paintings and installations on view until the exhibition is reprised as an “epilogue.” “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” is on view until May 2, 2015.

I WANT TO MAKE EXHIBITIONS where there is always a potential for the work to be shifting. There is a sensation that I’m chasing: an exhibition beyond the pacified white cube, something indigestible, something profuse. The question became how to make something that feels like my website, where I’m always making new work and adding things on. In a sense, my website is my masterwork: It’s like a grand edit of everything I’ve ever done, and it takes on a life of its own where things are infused in a bigger structure.

I came up with this two-year project of trying to make something so total and intricate it couldn’t be comprehended—where you could zoom in on the details endlessly, but never zoom out completely. “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” played out in several stages. It began with a prelude in the beginning of 2014: I hung eight paintings in an Atwater coffee shop. They were completely anonymous and ambient. After the exhibition, the paintings came back to my studio to be painted on some more, and they now hang in this show on the back of larger double-sided paintings.

Part one was at Smart Objects, a project space in Los Angeles, in May 2014. It was the first time I considered the whole building as a medium. I left the main space of the gallery empty. A nonsensical neon sign was hung facing out toward the street. There was a disused, three-story elevator shaft in the building and I broke through the wall to hang a bronze sculpture inside the shaft. Wallpaper was installed in the bathroom, and I hung a series of paintings throughout the second-floor apartment where the dealer lived. I painted a mural on the roof, too.

Part two was at White Cube in London last July. I considered this a trailer for “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night.” This was an effort to make an exhibition that spilled beyond the confines of the designated exhibition space. Children of the gallery’s staff contributed to some of the paintings that were hung throughout the offices, and flower vases made by other employees were scattered around the show. There was also a video piece, which is an episode of another ongoing work, and the receptionists wore pairs of bespoke slippers for the duration of the show. We added live parrots for the documentation. The show was credited as the work of Parker Cheeto and my eight studio assistants. People thought it was a group show.

The content in the current LA exhibition goes through a process of absorption. There are numerous sculptures riffing off the iconography of the local company Western Exterminator; my works feature an iconic top-hatted man with a mallet that sits atop company buildings and vans. They’re something you see often in LA because you’re constantly on the freeway, and Western Exterminator has depots at several freeway locations—off the 101, the 405. I think about how part of being alive is having to constantly process so much information that you’re pushed to a space where you don’t really know what the thing is—it’s just floating. I wanted to be able to incorporate as many media, processes, and strategies, as many kinds of content, as I could grasp. With such a density of information, the chemistry between things becomes unpredictable. The exhibition reaches a point where there is no one-to-one correlation between a reference and its meaning. It’s like when people who don’t read Chinese get Chinese characters tattooed on their bodies. Often those phrases are mistranslated, but it doesn’t really matter to the person what the characters say. They’re mostly interested in the qualities being conveyed by this kind of typography. That’s how I think about content: It’s not equivalent; it’s a filter. I’m invested in the sensation of things.

— As told to Chris Kraus


An Artist Whose Signature Style Is a Lack of One


Handlers install a painting for the artist Parker Ito's new show, "A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night," which will be displayed through an ongoing installation process during its run.
Handlers install a painting for the artist Parker Ito’s new show, “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” which will be displayed through an ongoing installation process during its run.Credit Elon Schoenholz

When Parker Ito was growing up in Seal Beach, a small city in Orange County, California, he watched David Copperfield DVDs assiduously. He dreamed of being a magician. “Then, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder,” the artist, 28, said from a folding chair set atop the barren rooftop of his Los Angeles studio in the El Sereno neighborhood. It was a few weeks before his new, knotty multimedia show, “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” would open in a 7,800-square-foot warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to Château Shatto, the gallery co-owned by Ito’s girlfriend and art dealer, Liv Barrett.

In his busy workspace below, Ito’s studio assistants were perched on scaffolding as they studiously worked from photographs and printouts to render massive two-sided paintings, which were now hanging shambolically on chains from the rafters of the exhibition warehouse. The paintings dally between appropriated logos from the ’90s skateboarding brand Hook-Ups; images of Ito as a Joan of Arc figure; and representations of the Western Exterminator, an Angeleno billboard staple depicting a tophatted man scolding a mouse while holding a mallet behind his back.

Ito is well known for hiring skilled painters as his studio assistants and paying them a fair wage (and sometimes giving them full credit as the artists of an exhibition, as he did at the London gallery White Cube last year) to realize his concepts. Often, this rankles critics who prefer that the artist’s hand touches the work — the sort of question of fabrication that Donald Judd raised in the 1960s and that has critically dogged Jeff Koons’s practice.


An installation view of "A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night."
An installation view of “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night.”Credit Elon Schoenholz

Ito tries to remove as much of himself from the process as possible, aside from an approval procedure; and because of his assistants’ distinct abilities, the studio creates works that vary greatly in technique. The pieces through which he first achieved prominence while still a student at California College of the Arts in Oakland — paintings of “the parked domain girl,” a fresh-faced co-ed who appears as a placeholder on countless unconstructed web addresses across the Internet — come in all types, from one that apes the street-art wheatpaste style to one that is completely abstracted to one done as an anime.

In fact, for Ito, variety is the only constant. He even switches his name up, going by pseudonyms such as Deke McLelland Two, Creamy Dreamy and Parker Cheeto. The idea that most artists end up finding and perfecting a style, which they’re expected to maintain for the rest of their lives, frightens him. “I never wanted to be someone who had an ability to do anything,” Ito said. “I never wanted to be someone who could paint really well or draw really well. I always want my work to be changing and shifting, and I never want to be set in something, so I purposefully never learned to do anything. I really try to make everything at this point.”

“A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night,” his biggest show yet, which opened over the weekend, is the culmination of two years of Ito figuring out how to present his artwork in a yearlong series under one umbrella. Previously, there was a show done anonymously and semi-secretly in a cafe in Atwater Village, consisting solely of still life paintings of roses, followed by an exhibition at the cramped Echo Park gallery Smart Objects. The third iteration came last July, after Jay Jopling, the owner of the prominent London gallery White Cube (which represents Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin among others), dropped by Ito’s studio and offered him a show. Ito was hesitant, having made the decision to shun big galleries; he compromised by doing the show, but giving credit to his assistants — and Parker Cheeto, of course. “I was really trying to take a break this year,” he says. “I really wanted to carve my own path and avoid commercial galleries.”

Ito dislikes openings, so “A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” did not have one. The exhibition’s announcement came in the form of a newsprint booklet containing a love letter written to Ito by Barrett. And Ito has painted Barrett into one of the show’s paintings (though he had to redo it in the weeks leading up to the show, because “her nose was all wrong,” Ito says).

Alongside 33 paintings, 19 bronze sculptures of the Western Exterminator in all forms are hung from chains or positioned on top of other works. Sloppy ceramics are scattered through the space, string lights are haphazardly threaded through holes in the ceiling like the nest of wires at the back of a computer desk, and several fake palm trees — the same kind used to mask cellphone towers — will be right at home when they are installed in the next few weeks of the ever-changing exhibition.

If anything, Ito is the type of artist that sends critics into fits. The New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz called him mediocre in one article, lumping him into the “zombie abstraction” dogpile in another, Ito having been caught up in the whole mess surrounding the art advisor Stefan Simchowitz’s price goosing and art flipping. The art-world gossip has affected the way critics approach Ito’s work. “It turns people off to my work before they even look at it,” says Ito. “It’s hard for me to know if people have even seen a lot of the stuff I’ve done.”

Ito is hoping that this show changes the perspective of how his work is seen, a daunting task in the art world. Ito can’t say for sure exactly where he falls in the art-making genres, but what he does know is that he will always be switching it up, keeping people guessing and trying to keep it interesting for himself through adaptation. “Even though I’ve made so many bodies of work that look totally different, people tell me there’s a feeling that, when they see my work, they know it’s mine,” he said. “So even my attempts to destroy myself, I’m still myself, I guess.”

“Part 3: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night” runs through an undisclosed date in late April at 1317 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles,

Correction: January 28, 2015
An earlier version of this post omitted a credit for the pictures of Parker Ito’s artwork. They were taken by Elon Schoenholz.

Interview with Parker Ito

548 W. 28th St. Suite 636
New York, NY 10001
SEPT 6 – OCT 6 2012

Parker Ito, as many of you already know, is a multi-media and Internet artist based in the Bay Area. Over the past few years he has become known for his uses and manipulations of found and stock imagery as well as continually re-configuring and jumbling all kinds of online identities, communities, systems and paths of communication. His current solo exhibition at Stadium in New York City titled The Agony and the Ecstasy, features new paintings and sculptures that defy the conventional binary between viewership in the gallery and documentation as it is presented online.

Courtney Malick: I have to start off by asking about the title of the exhibition, The Agony and
the Ecstasy, which of course conjures certain distinct references such as the novel (1961) of the same title about the life of Michelangelo and the subsequent film (1965) based on the book starring Charlton Heston.  Then there of also the famous song by Smoky Robinson.  Were any of these works in your mind in any way when deciding on a title for this show?

Parker Ito: I like movies, but only bad movies. And I don´t ever read books, only Wikipedia entries.  So my knowledge of these things is very superficial.  The Agony and the Ecstasy seemed to be a good title for an art show because it kind of encapsulates artistic struggle.  My artistic struggles are not so much about, ‘Oh, making art is really hard,’ but more like, ‘I need more money to go online shopping,’ ‘I have a crush on this girl, how do I get her attention on twitter?’ or ‘Do I look hot in this Facebook photo?!’ Online romances are sort of my thing and that´s probably the main theme of this show.  When I say “online romances” I don´t just mean girls either, I´m talking about romantic relationships with art via the Internet as well.

CM: Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by ‘romantic relationships with art’?

PI:  Like people artworks seem to exist in some sort of in-between state. Sometimes people take really good photos and sometimes people look hotter offline. I heard a rumor that I’m hotter in person. More so now than ever things exist in multiple versions and one is not truer than the other. Most artworks seem to look better online and lots of art objects can be underwhelming and unromantic in person.

CM: Yes, that is definitely true for photos and other two-dimensional work. I am also really interested in the idea of the exhibition trailer that was included as a link in the press release that I received via e-mail.  This is a PR technique that I have never seen before.  Is it something that you conceived of as a preemptive extension of the exhibition or is it something that the gallery has done in the past?  Also, what was it that you wanted to convey in the trailer that you felt would intrigue people to come see the show in person?

PI: Maybe not in a blue chip sense, but more so with a lot of younger artists exhibition trailers seem to be pretty common now.  Mark Leckey made some pretty cool trailers for his exhibitions.  Hopefully people will get excited about coming to my show when they see the trailer.  That’s probably what I was thinking about most.  We live in a day in age of TL;DR though, so who wants to read a whole press release when you can watch a video and get more of a sense of what the show is about?  You do´t even have to watch the whole trailer, which is cool too, you can just scrub through it.

CM: I guess that is true to an extent, but I actually found a lot of things in the press release that intrigued me that I doubt I would have understood about the show based solely on the trailer. Most importantly the press release describes a lot about the conceptual background for this body of work, but I would really like to hear from you how it came about, especially as it relates or diverts from your previous work?

PI: Twenty-twelve was all about making beautiful things – my motto this year is ‘be pretty, make pretty things.’  That was the genesis of this body of work.  Then I got this idea to try and create artworks that were un-documentable, and then this basically shifted into trying to make art objects where the content of the work was the documentation and that had multiple, unique viewing experiences.  Reflective material offered all of these qualities and I just jumped into that head-first.  The timing was so perfect, as reflective material seems to be really trending in fashion right now. This makes me feel like I´m the artistic equivalent to hypebeast or something.

CM: I love the idea of documentation as content too and it is clearly foregrounded in this project. Can you say a bit about why you have chosen to set it up in this way?

PI: Yes this is the most important thing.  When buying a painting or a sculpture collectors always ask “which is the artists favorite?”  My answer would be that my favorite is all the of the paintings and sculptures together, with multiple documentation of each object collected on my website, then a link to my website posted on Facebook with at least 50 likes.  I think that´s probably most simple way to explain my reasoning.

CM: From what you have told me so far I am curious to know if you consider this project to be a formal one or if you see it as being rooted in the conceptual?  Perhaps in this case we cannot distinguish between the two?

PI: I´m not a conceptual artist, but I think this work is rooted in “konceptualism” and this is similar to when people spell the word “cool”, “kewl”, or “kool”.  I am passionate about the Internet and making work about the effects that Internet has had on traditional art objects is the most honest thing I can do, even if sometimes I do that under another name.  These paintings and sculptures are made flat, un-stretched.  Water and paint is sprayed on to the reflective material, which leads to very randomized results.  This reduces the whole process into something very systematic, which yields a very formal result.  But the qualities specific to the materials make the experience of viewing these works in person and in documented form very unique, and this is the more “konceptual” side of the project.

CM:  Wow, I’ve never thought of a kind of renewed or “off-brand” version of conceptualism.  It is interesting that you mentioned wanting to achieve a certain beauty with these works yet on the other hand you would be most pleased to see them reduced to a popular link on your Facebook page.  Again, the tension between agony and ecstasy or form and concept seems to arise.  Do you feel it is that dichotomy that the works embody that will continue to make them compelling in a non-visual sense once the gallery show is over?

PI: Most conceptual artists claim to be intellectuals. I am either a super anti-intellectual or a fake pseudo-intellectual. Just in the same way that my life is more conceptual than any art, therefore I do not need to make conceptual art. Multiplicity is an important part to the project – a gallery viewer could see these objects in person and think “wow these are extremely beautiful” and the works would just be reduced to pretty things on a wall. Someone could see a low res cell phone pic on Facebook that is extremely blown out and actually have no understanding at all of the formal characteristics of these works. So these objects both reject and accept their own beauty. The most interesting way to experience them is to live with them because one can view them in every lighting condition.

CM: Clearly one of the problemics your show addresses is the dichotomy that exists between experiences that take place online as opposed to offline.  Offline, in terms of an art exhibition, would traditionally mean the ‘separate-ness’ of the white cube of the commercial or museum gallery.  However, I am beginning to wonder if we can even make such a distinction any longer, as most of us spend each day with a smart phone in our hand at all times, through which we are continuously connected to the internet and various social media networks.  It is this perpetually connected condition that makes me wonder if the “unaffected”, (as it is referred to in the show’s press release), space of the gallery can any longer actually be considered as such?  Do you think that virtual and physical space necessarily operate differently?  And if so, do you think that there will eventually be a time when they will merge completely?

PI: Yea I mean this is already happening.  The best way to understand this is if you think about the new Apple OS and how the default track pad settings actually function in reverse from the previous settings.  This is because people are getting so used to being on smart phones all the time and scrolling the opposite way is actually more natural.  Or things like how Instagram filters just look like Instagram filters and don´t even reference film anymore.

CM: I know what you mean, particularly about Instagram’s self referential filter aesthetic.  It is clear to me that it is this condition that your show references, what I am wondering is whether you feel that by presenting something (these paintings) that cannot as easily transition from the real to the virtual realms, does this project represents a critical perspective on this hyper way of interacting via new technologies?

PI: No. I think I’m just being honest about the impact of the Internet on contemporary culture. I mean right now I’m writing this on my iPhone on an abbreviated version of gmail because my laptop is broken and I’m traveling. it takes me longer to type and the experience of handwriting my responses would be very different but it’s still “me.”

CM:Right, of course. I guess my last question would be if other than the documentation existing as the final state of this show that will be accessible on your website, do you have other plans for ways to extend or re-use the documentation “works” that will be the result of The Agony and the Ecstasy?

PI: I don’t really see an end because this work could be re-blogged forever and each time the work is photographed it is reactivated.



Maid in Heaven / En Plein Air in Hell (My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Cheeto Problem)

White Cube Masons Yard, London, 16 July – 27 September

By Oliver Basciano

Parker Cheeto is Los Angeles-based Parker Ito. This show is attributed to a ton of names on White Cube’s website (which I assume are real; Cheeto / Ito is known to play with these things, though), including his assistants, various friends and an art logistics company in LA. I’m guessing however that this is mainly a Cheeto / Ito affair, because it is his face that is plastered floor-to-ceiling in the lower gallery. Back to those portraits shortly. Cheeto / Ito who is in his late twenties, has various other hip guises, including a Twitter account under the name of Joe Vex (@CreamyDreamy), from which he posts such bon mots as ‘i will never admit ive met someone before unless they admit it first :(’ and ‘i cant fuck you tonight cause im fucking you tonight’. I thought about trying to decipher all this. I looked at the press release, but it was just some story about going to a party in Miami and not recognising New York Yankees baseball star Alex Rodriguez. I looked online, but all I found were interviews in which our man said things like, ‘Harmony Korine is my good friend. He’s a real artist.’ In the end I came to the conclusion that I really couldn’t give a shit.

I came to the conclusion that I really couldn’t give a shit

Which is where I thought initially I’d leave this review. Then I became annoyed that I wasn’t giving a shit, because that’s the kind of Valley Girl attitude, signposted in interviews, those tweets and the party-boy persona displayed in the self-portraits, that Cheeto / Ito’s practice is a knowing expression of, and what is so infuriating about Maid in Heaven/En Plein Air in Hell (My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Cheeto Problem). On the ground floor of the gallery there are six paintings (which mix UV paint, oil, acrylic and screenprinting on each canvas), together with some garish wilting flowers in ceramic vases on the floor; chains hanging down from the ceiling; and a widescreen monitor, also floor-based. I have no idea what the flower and chain motifs (reiterated in a couple of the paintings) are there for. They evoke, respectively, works by Jeff Koons and Kanye West, figures to whom Cheeto / Ito nods in the show’s title. It is hard to determine the reasons for these references, other than their cool cultural cachet (incidentally, Cheeto / Ito can perhaps be seen to perform a similar role for brand White Cube). The paintings are kitsch when studied through the lens of any painterly critique, stylistically closer to tattoo or skate iconography than anything else. It appears, however, that the intention for them is to be looked at less in the terms of painting and more as advertisements for or signifiers of the Cheeto / Ito brand: scrawled across a couple are even the title and dates of this exhibition.

Can you guess what the video that was being shown on the monitor is like? A thoughtful meditation on neoliberal politics and the dispossessed. No, just kidding. You were correct first time: giflike animated characters, phone pics of Cheeto / Ito and his mates having a good time, the music videos of Kanye’s Bound 2 (2013), Robyn’s piss-poor Dancing On My Own (2010), all interrupted occasionally by an industrial noise track neither I nor Shazam recognised. Downstairs: red carpet; more chains; more flowers; more paintings, this time hanging from the ceiling at angles; and those floor-to-ceiling photographic portraits of the man himself looking cool / kind of hot and definitely being aware of both these things. Over the latter images are various lengthy handwritten notes, including a list of ‘Things not likely to be seen in a P.I. Painting’ (Candy Crush, outdoor gear and ‘Jewish Shit’ among them apparently).

Aside from being immensely boring, the problem with all this is that it’s Teflon-coated

Aside from being immensely boring, the problem with all this is that it’s Teflon-coated. There’s so much layered irony, self-awareness and knowing hints to ideas of vacuity (the artist as brand, from the show title’s evocation of Kanye and Koons onwards); so much celebrated meaninglessness, so much self-publicised lack of a shit given; that to critically hit it with those things just elicits a shrug. To play devil’s advocate, the artist may just be honestly reflecting the generational and cultural environment that surrounds him (poor chap); but if he’s just holding a mirror, with no commentary, with nothing at stake, just a mire of Gen-Y nihilism (and when the artist literally won’t put his name behind the work), it leaves the critic stuck, art criticism stuck and this critic wanting to hit the eject button.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue



Art : Interview

Away From Keyboard: Parker Ito

by Antonia Marsh

Parker Ito discusses AFK, IRL, and post-Web 2.0 arenas.

Parker Ito, The Agony and the Ecstasy series, Enamel on 3M Scotchlite and vinyl, 36 × 48 inches, 2012. All images courtesy of the artist.

Although his new paintings attempt to create an artwork that cannot be documented, it was documentation itself that was the aim of one emerging YIBA (Young Internet-based Artist). Parker Ito’s most well-known exhibition project, New Jpegs, took place at Johan Berggren Gallery in Malmo, Sweden in 2011; the artist generated content in the form of installation shots that were then manipulated through digital imaging software to create an entirely new body of work. This conversation between Ito’s practice in the digital realm and three-dimensional artworks that have the capacity to exist within physical space weaves throughout Ito’s work. JstChillin, an online curatorial project that lasted eighteen months, in its retrospective, stepped away from the screen and manifested itself in real space, while his project The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet exists simultaneously as a series of paintings and a continuously re-blogged Internet meme.

With much of his earlier work available online via the artist’s website, and with three exhibitions this summer in New York, Chicago, and Toronto, the perceived notion that a digital environment exists separately from its physical counterpart is limiting. Musing over the oppositions of physicality and virtuality both in space and objects, Ito and I conclude that an artwork—and, by implication, an exhibition—cannot exist solely in real space, but must include an online presence in order to fully exist.

Antonia Marsh While some of your earlier projects such as and PaintFX were web-based to begin with, they have also included live, real-time aspects. How do you understand this transition from an online environment to an IRL [“In Real Life”] environment?

Parker Ito Well, to begin with, I no longer believe in the relevance of the term “IRL.” Although perhaps somewhat dogmatic, I find its usage antithetical to my entire practice. For me the term “IRL” constitutes a relic of Web 1.0 net anxiety/novelty. “IRL” infers a division between a presumed “real world” and what happens online that I don’t think exists anymore. We live in a technologically hybrid reality where the space between the physical and the virtual is fluid.

AM Ok, so if we are to avoid the term “IRL,” what can it be substituted with? Does another term communicate better the position such projects exist in when taken offline?

PI Currently, we exist in a post-Web 2.0 arena, floating slightly before or in the midst of what I believe will be Web 3.0. A more custom, personal web, whose language will remain consistently abbreviated due to the ubiquity of smart phones and other mobile devices, defines Web 3.0. “AFK” or “Away From Keyboard” is the term I use the most often, but even the meaning of this term is shifting. In being constantly connected, “Log Off” is increasingly becoming a redundant action for users, so in fact we are very rarely “AFK.” However, overall I still see this as a more appropriate term, because fundamentally it acknowledges that the Internet is very real, realer than it’s ever been, which the term “IRL” seems to inherently reject.

AM Now that we are armed with the appropriate terminology, let’s return to art practice: for you, how is the authenticity of a web-based artwork or exhibition affected when it is taken offline?

PI In my opinion, through its constant documentation, an art object now exists as much online as it does offline. Whether professional or amateur, the capacity for posts on Facebook or links on Twitter to share artworks with a global audience has transformed contemporary art into a cyclical network of documentation. Art since the Internet has become continuously documented, shared and exchanged, which I now visualize as a kind of loop with no ending point or final resting place. All information flows in more than one direction. A lot of times the initiators of these loops are objects, or exhibitions that take place AFK, but this isn’t always true. A website, jpeg, etc. can be the starting point too. I think of the production of an artwork intended for physical exhibition or web-based exhibition simultaneously. I never produce a work that won’t be online. So whether or not it is intended for physical exhibition, its relation to operating in this media distribution loop is embedded in my artistic practice.

The Agony and the Ecstasy series, Enamel on 3M Scotchlite, plexi and aluminum, Dimensions variable, 2012.

AM So would you be inclined to argue that the online presence of an art object in fact legitimates its existence more so than its actual physical presence?

PI I would actually say that in the artist community that I’m most directly involved with, sometimes referred to as #YIBA (young, Internet-based artists), an artwork is most directly initiated into existence through its documentation as a non-object. For me, this initiation via non-objects equally exists in the realm of exhibition-making. What I mean by this is that until you post your show as an event on Facebook and begin actively generating responsive activity, such as “Likes,” it doesn’t really exist.

AM Are you therefore suggesting that the status of the art object has shifted so as to always maintain some sort of inherent online presence? In order to exist offline as a physical object, does an artwork have to exist virtually online at the same time?

PI There is a saying, “If it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.” This is true now more than ever.

AM One of your most recent projects, an exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland entitled Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior, had a considerable Internet presence. Was this a deliberate choice, perhaps an attempt to embody what we have been discussing about the necessity for an online presence in order for an exhibition to fully exist?

PI I initiated Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior as part of Aventa Garden, a collaboration between Body By Body (Cameron Soren and Melissa Sachs) and myself as Deke 2. The exhibition spawned out of observations surrounding the way counter-cultures and sub-cultures have become increasingly popularized through their hybridization and increased prominence via the Internet. Contemporary popular culture is reliant on the Internet for its visibility; however, similarly, everything that is taken online has the potential to become “pop” almost immediately, including what might otherwise be considered counter-cultural.

In terms of using Web space to present exhibitions that occur offline, Anime Bettie Page Fucked by Steampunk Horse Warrior reflects what I’m most interested in at the moment. For the show, Aventa Garden (which describes itself as the leading American-Anime Deviant Art Studio Concept-Powerhouse) generated a lot of content, even though the actual exhibition only consisted of one projection, one painting, and some Mountain Dew cans stacked around a door. The gallery exhibition was just a tiny aspect of the show and in some sense is overshadowed by the extensive collating and archiving of documentation of the project’s process and supporting materials.

Thinking about this particular project enables a visualization of what we just discussed—this idea that art exists within a network. If a viewer were only to see the gallery component of this exhibition, they’d be missing out on a lot. On the website, email correspondence between the curators and the artists and craftsmen who helped us realize the exhibition are made available; as well as Google Chat conversations between Melissa, Cameron, and myself discussing the concept of the exhibition. We even documented our attempts to contact an ice block store to see if they could freeze a saxophone for us. As a result of this continuous amalgamation of information, the project feels somewhat never-ending, and we seem to be constantly updating the site with new tidbits.

Installation shot from New Jpegs with Ben Schumacher sculpture in foreground. The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet, Oil on digital print on canvas, 36 × 48 each, 2012.

AM In relation to what we have been discussing, it might also be beneficial to talk about some of your earlier projects, like and Paint FX …

PI It’s interesting that you bring up JstChillin and Paint FX, both highly collaborative projects that, while I initiated and remain associated with, equally exist as authorless projects, or belong to a collective rather than individual voice. Paint FX (Jon Rafman, John Transue, Tabor Robak, Micah Schippa, and myself) began in response to a returning interest in formalism and a general fetishism for glossy software. Paint FX had several offline shows where we printed jpegs from the site on paper and displayed them in a casual salon-hang. Over 700 images exist on, and I found selecting ten works for exhibition in a gallery space challenging, because it instigated a conversation about quality that I felt uncomfortable with. The element of constant, unhierarchical output was something that had always appealed to me about the project.

AM I agree, the Internet as an unhierarchical network offers the works on Paint FX a kind of utopian horizontality, however as soon as some kind of curatorial selection is implemented in order to choose which works might be taken offline, this horizontal organization is lost. In addition, in terms of curatorial modes of display, the salon-hang is historically associated with artistic hierarchies between genres of painting.

Frozen Saxophone, Ice, saxophone, Mountain Dew Game Fuel, Dimensions Variable, Aventa Garden, 2012.

PI When the project was placed into a gallery space, it suddenly felt contrived and static. I do believe there was potential for the project to work as an exhibition, although more attention to display was needed. Unfortunately Paint FX ended at the peak of its popularity, so for me the project still feels unresolved, and in some ways this lack of conclusion feels like failure. Although my role was less in production of work for the site and I functioned more as a facilitator for the project, in the end we were successful in branding a new aesthetic of shimmering software, which I am happy with.

JstChillin was a long-term project I started in collaboration with Caitlin Denny, an artist I studied with in California. In total JstChillin lasted two years, from Spring 2009 until Spring 2011, which is an unusually long time when considering the speed normally associated with the Web. This unconstrained timing allowed us to develop our own unique voice. For me, what was most successful about the project was our transformation of the online platform model into a constantly morphing project that constituted part social experiment, part networked performance and part gallery. Every two weeks we invited an artist to launch an exclusively commissioned project that was featured on the homepage. We intended to rebel against the online gallery “reblog” model that seemed to be dominating web-based exhibition spaces at the time.

The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet, Oil on digital print on canvas, 36 × 48 inches, 2012.

AM What offline endeavors were programmed and how did these affect the rhythm and identity of JstChillin?

PI “Avatar 4D,” a one night performance event we curated in San Francisco in 2010 was the first AFK event we hosted and in a lot of ways was a major turning point for the project as well as for my own work. This was the first time I met a lot of the artists we had been working with in person, including Artie Vierkant, Chris Coy, and Jon Rafman. All three of these artists were included in New Jpegs, an exhibition I curated in Malmö, Sweden last year and then Jon and I started Paint FX together. JstChillin culminated with a retrospective over the last two years at 319 Scholes Gallery in New York, entitled READ/WRITE. The title of the exhibition is derived from a term coined by Lawrence Lessig, developed in order to describe the difference between Web 1.0, a read-only web, and Web 2.0, a read/write web.

Our approach to the show was loose in some ways, but was mostly focused on objects, and more than anything was really about the social component of a group of artists whose practices are defined by a high online presence.

But in short I view offline and online exhibiting as two unique experiences, and two unique perspectives, one is not more important than the other. They are both essential for contemporary art in the midst of smart phones, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, [and beyond].

For more information about the work of Parker Ito, visit his website here.

Antonia Marsh is an art writer and curator from London.



Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

Sanja Lazic

Parker Ito is a very interesting guy. He is an artist without a signature, recognizable style or technique; he hates discussing his own artwork, reading and long sleeping. However, this 28-year-old American artist agreed to talk to Interview Magazine’s writer Sarah Nicole Prickett about almost everything, even his own art. From a status of an emerging artist, Ito gained wider recognition in 2012, thanks to his breakthrough show ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’ at Stadium gallery in New York. Now, Ito’s works sell for head-turning figures, causing a lot of controversy over the actual value of his works.

Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

Art As A Cure

Ito admits suffering from agoraphobia, which caused a long period of taking prescription drugs. However, even if he calls it ‘a really dark time’ in his life, art was the only thing that kept him sane. ‘That was the only thing I could do. The only time I felt normal was when I was making stuff’, Ito remembers, ‘well, that was right around the time that my assistants started becoming very heavily involved, because I had left California to get away from my family. My parents were—are—going through a divorce, and I was right in the middle of everything. I flipped out, and I came to New York to live here for a month. It was the worst place to fucking go, but I was under the impression that being around my family was what was stressing me out, so I came here, and then I called and e-mailed my assistants and had them work remotely for a month. In May I flew back to Los Angeles for a show, and I hadn’t even seen the work; I hadn’t touched it. I just showed up for the opening, and there were 20 paintings that I had made’.


On His Assistants

Ito explains his relationship with his assistants (five of them) being different from the usual one. He even admits that some of the ideas for the work are theirs, even though they are not signed, explaining it by saying ‘I don’t sign my work, so nobody should sign anything. My assistants like making things, but they don’t want to put up with all the bullshit of being an artist. And I try to be a really cool boss. For my two main assistants, who have been with me longer than anyone else, I bought monogrammed velvet slippers. I bought them the Jackson Pollock Crocs. I’m getting berets made for them, and they have sweatsuits printed with some paintings we did’.

Interview Highlights: Parker Ito

No Signature

Ito’s work doesn’t seem to have the usual continuity as other artists do. He agrees with the statement that this lack of recognition helps him not be branded in a certain way. ‘I’m interested in making work that mimics the mechanism of the internet. In The Agony and the Ecstasy, I wanted to show the effect of the internet on traditional art objects, and how that affects the way we document and experience artwork. So it was about distribution through a network. Now I’m interested in embodying it. I want to be an internet for a network, right? And a network is something constantly shifting and never stable. So to do that, I can’t really have a signature style or be bound to a medium. It’s very hard because there’s a style that emerges anyway, or maybe it’s more a feeling than a style’, Ito concludes.


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