Guns, antlers and NASCAR-numbered bongos: NYC artist Adam Parker Smith explores the human condition by drawing upon fantasy, folklore and reality. Parker Smith explains: “Through this combination, I establish psychological sites for disparate elements to congregate in environments that are simultaneously haunting, familiar and alien.” His installation explores the connections between and among sport, urbanity and violence.
A small field of weather vanes flutters about in the middle of the gallery. These gun-shaped cardboard creations sit in between a few fans that provide the wind animating the installation. At first their motions seem twitchy and haphazard, but if you stand in one spot for a short time, you notice that the movement of the guns is slow, quick and fluid. Even though you know that their activity is random, it’s hard to escape the notion that there is a deliberate force at work as the guns take aim at various locations.
To the right is a seven-foot tall monolith of black vinyl and Kevlar called “Swing Your Father’s Sword.” It has the head of a goat complete with hand-carved birch horns. The dark, tentacle-like extensions of the thing swirl around several deer-skin drums that have acrylic NASCAR numbers pasted on to them.
In the Bunker (basement) of the gallery is a work that Parker Smith did in collaboration with Carolyn Salas called “Trophy.” To get there, you descend a staircase and arrive in a room awash in red light. There are a couple of couches and a large mirror leaning against the wall with the name “Nick” printed on it. At the other end of the room is a small passage. It too is filled with red light and has exposed cement walls. Apprehension mounts until you exit into a large room and see the deer. The light is now white and bare cement and brick walls give way to high ceilings that are necessary to accommodate the artwork. On opposing walls, two deer heads have been mounted and are crowned with massive racks of hand-made resin antlers that take up an impressive amount of vertical space.
Parker Smith has often explored the idea of death as a commodity in his works. In this exhibit, the theme is reflected in the hunting trophies, in the nod to a high-speed sport best known for its tragic car crashes, and in the pervasiveness of gun culture. Whether used as a form of entertainment or as a tool of urban affairs, the consumerist approach to death is ubiquitous in our culture.
The presence of this macabre merchandise is subtle, both in life and in the exhibit. The weather vane rifles are caricatures of a paranoid, might-is-right urban landscape. The horned-goat harbinger of bongos has laid claim to many cars and presumably their drivers. The antlers elicit awe because of their immense scale and the serene faces of the deer betray the violent end that brought them there. The show conceals the cadaverous commodities in the same way that the artworks’ subjects do. It hides them in plain sight.
Adam Parker Smith’s exhibit runs until July 25, 2009 at Parisian Laundry, 3550 St. Antoine Ouest. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12h to 17h. For more details go to www.parisianlaundry.com/