As in previous years, the Brooklyn Museum has handpicked a stellar group of Brooklyn-based artists to create site-specific installations for the Brooklyn Artists Ball, which takes place at the museum April 16. The 17 artists were tasked with creating an “immersive, multi-sensory table environment,” or, as they are more casually described, centerpieces.
Among those selected this year are Olek (she’s making a hand-crocheted table), Marianne Vitale (she’s making masks for the 40 guests at her table) and Nina Katchadourian (who’s offering her guests a kit to “become” one of her portraits). There is also Adam Parker Smith, who is making sculptures inspired by the male and female genitalia.
Naturally, when asked which artist we’d like to chat with about their contribution, we chose Parker Smith. The artist’s previous claim to fame was stealing some 77 works from various artists to display in his solo show last year at the Lower East Side’s Lu Magnus. A charming prankster, a self-proclaimed liar, and an all-around troublemaker, Parker Smith is our kind of fellow. We caught up with the artist in his studio next to the Navy Yard to chat about the upcoming event, strip clubs and purchasing ideas.
Yeah. So today I was having lunch and I was thinking that I wish I was hiring a bunch of guys to hijack and kidnap 700 important art people and steal all their wallets, or something like that. But I’m not. You know where the event is going to be held?
It’s an open foyer and there’s a second mezzanine around it. I can imagine guys with big guns surrounding everybody and firing a couple fake shots. I should have proposed that – why not go out with a bang? No… I’m just going to fade away like everyone else.
I had a lot of really bad ideas. I thought I would do a bukkake table-scape, where the whole table was just covered in… not real bukkake but some thermoplastic or something. I ran that by my girlfriend and she was like, “That’s a terrible, terrible idea.”
So I’m going to do a series of smaller sculptures. I think there’s something to be said about being somewhat humble with the work for this particular event. I was originally thinking of doing all these crazy projects, but people are going to be eating.
I didn’t want to annoy anybody. A buddy of mine had this bachelor party — it was a really by-the-book wedding and by-the-book bachelor party. So, I look up the strip club ahead of time and I was excited to see that the steaks there are supposed to be really good. While I was there, everyone is getting lap dances and so forth, but also while they were eating they were getting massages. I personally don’t like to be touched by strangers, so I wasn’t getting any services, but one of the other guys was like, “Yo, I bought you a massage.” And there was this woman, Ingrid, and she was built. She was wearing lingerie and she was giving these really hard, deep tissue massages – she was obviously not a chiropractor or anything…
[laughs] No, and all the guys are really getting into it. And I don’t like massages at all – they hurt. So she comes over and she starts working on my back, and I’m instantly in pain but I’m sitting at a table full of these meathead guys so I had to just take it. And I was trying to eat the steak… and I just thought that things should be isolated. You don’t get a hot dog and go to the museum, you eat the hot dog outside of the museum.
It’s just a folded cushion. And they’ll be on varying heights and there will be both male and female versions. It’s engaging, it’s a little dirty, but I still feel comfortable talking with my mom about this work. Having to explain the bukkake to my parents…
Anyway, I guess in contrast to hijacking the entire evening, we’re having these. I’m always having these great ideas and then my father will say something. You know those gated communities? I used to want to get U-locks and put them on the gates.
I’m certainly aware of what people have done in past years. It’s a really challenging problem to try to overcome in that your work is up for only one night but it’s an event with a bunch of important people and your work is on display in a really important institution… but it’s table decoration. There are all these weird contradictions.
It’s kind of like Project Runway [in announcer voice]: “One night, $1,500, 700 guests. Your work will go on one table. What are you going to do?” It’s extreme parameters.
The last couple of years I’ve been stealing, appropriating and buying ideas from other artists. But the whole time I was working on that show at Lu Magnus, I just wanted to get back in the studio and make artwork. I was thinking about A Moveable Feast and those cats in the 20s, and there was a dialogue. It wasn’t about ownership of ideas, it was just like, “That’s a damn fine painting – I think I’ll make one like it.” They were just making nice paintings and nice sculptures, so I thought, I want to make some paintings and some sculptures.
I’m a terrible painter. I think I can make a good sculpture, but painting is impossible. It’s rare to have a really solid painting. Paintings are usually 8s or 9s. My best painting is a 2 or a 3 probably. So every year I make a couple paintings, thinking I have it in me to make a 6 or 7. Someday I’ll make one and I’ll show it – and people will be dumbfounded. I think it’s good for people with egos, like myself, to have a really humbling activity. I go teach two days a week at an international high school up in Queens. Those kids don’t give a shit about your ego, your career or your write-up in the New York Times, so that’s nice. For me, making paintings is another way to prove to myself I’m a really incapable artist.
A year ago I was buying ideas from artists. A buddy of mine came to my studio — he’s full of good ideas — he had an idea for a sculpture that I really liked. So I asked him if I could buy it from him and it was really expensive: $5,000. So I asked, “Do you have any $200 ideas?” And he had a whole book at home so he e-mailed me a bunch and I picked one out. It’s these Kanye West Shutter Shades venetian blinds.
It’s easier to judge other people’s ideas. All of my ideas are good… until they’re not. So for a while I was just buying ideas. Then I was seeing a psychic too – if someone who could predict the future could just tell me what I was going to make next, that would alleviate that whole part.
Adam Parker Smith has a solo exhibition at Ever Gold in San Francisco opening May 9. The Brooklyn Artists Ball is at the Brooklyn Museum on April 16.
Update: The number of artists appearing in the show was revised after a 17th was added to the bill.