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Parker Ito, by Oliver Basciano / ArtReview

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

Maid in Heaven / En Plein Air in Hell (My Beautiful Dark and Twisted Cheeto Problem), 2014 (installation view). Photo: Jack Hems. © the artist. Courtesy White Cube, London & São Paulo

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