Join­ing sculp­tor in the dog­house

Ex­hibits in Hol­ly­wood redo­lent with love, loss and bro­ken re­la­tion­ships

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - ART - By Phillip Valys

For Ken­ton Parker, love means hav­ing to say you’re sorry with 16 bouquets of fake flow­ers.

There they sit in pot­ted plants – faux droop­ing tulips and full-bloom or­chids – in­side Parker’s flower stand, where the artist has wo­ven ro­mance and apolo­gies to all the ex-girl­friends he’s ever loved and dev­as­tated. Ti­tled “Al­ways Sorry,” the free-stand­ing in­stal­la­tion, about the size of a broom closet, is planted in the cen­ter’s main gallery. The shop’s white-painted wooden frame is pock­marked with dents and chips, its win­dows stained with dirt. Kitschy ce­ramic cat stat­ues top wooden milk crates. Trow­els and ham­mers hang on the walls next to used dog col­lars. A col­umn of live cacti runs along the spine of the build­ing’s roof.

For Parker, there’s zero am­bi­gu­ity about the phony flow­ers: They rep­re­sent doomed, su­per­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships. He blames him­self.

“I would con­stantly be screw­ing up and giv­ing women flow­ers, al­ways be­ing in the f----dog­house,” Parker, 48, says. (He cur­rently has a girl­friend.) “I have this abil­ity to speak in long sen­tences, faster than my head and heart can keep up. I’ll be up­set with some­one and apol­o­gize to them in the same sen­tence, but most people can’t ac­cept your apol­ogy that quickly. I mean, that’s not how people work.”

A wiry Cal­i­for­nia na­tive who likes to speak in rapid-fire sen­tences laced with ex­ple­tives, Parker is busy this week in­stalling the two cen­ter­pieces of his new solo show, “Ev­ery­thing Counts in Small Amounts,” open­ing Fri­day, June 10. The flower shop, when fin­ished, will be joined by an­other free-stand­ing build­ing: “My First Kiss,” a lyric lit­tle shack of a tree­house on raised cin­der blocks. A sanc­tu­ary to teenage ro­mance, Parker says the tree­house is just large enough for two people to crawl in­side, lay supine and gaze up at the “stars,” shown on a video screen­ing on a flat screen TV an­chored to the ceil­ing.

“It’s a sto­ry­book tree­house. Kids or adults can come in­side and draw on the walls,” says Parker, who bought live co­coons of monarch but­ter­flies from But­ter­fly World in Co­conut Creek, which will hatch in­side the tree­house dur­ing the exhibition’s run.

The tree­house, which first de­buted at Soho Beach House dur­ing Art Basel 2014, wasn’t al­ways a place for in­no­cent ado­les­cence. Vis­i­tors that year treated the space like a VIP cham­pagne room, scrawl­ing graf­fiti on the walls, hav­ing sex, smok­ing weed.

That’s how Parker prefers his life-size rooms to be used. An Army brat who bounced around from South Korea to San Diego to Fort Benny, Ga., as a teenager, Parker found sta­bil­ity as a night­club pro­moter. Dur­ing his twen­ties, he threw in­vite-only par­ties for San Diego’s nightlife elite, build­ing dec­o­ra­tions such as fly­ing drag­ons and go-go danc­ing cages. Once, in the 1990s, he in­stalled a fake taco stand in the cen­ter of a night­club. Parker wit­nessed people duck­ing in­side to snort co­caine.

Parker’s free-stand­ing sculp­tures owe a debt to Robert Rauschen­berg’s ready-mades, in which the pi­o­neer­ing artist took ev­ery­day ob­jects and com­bined them into art.

“This is a kid-ori­ented show, but so much of my work is de­bauch­er­ous,” Parker says of this exhibition. “Th­ese in­stal­la­tions are 3D ver­sions of my feel­ings. It’s a f------ jour­nal­is­tic di­ary of my life. I’m a very sen­si­tive per­son, so my per­sonal life is wrapped up in th­ese places. The dog col­lar in the flower shop be­longs to Lucky,” his boxer-ridge­back mix of 17 years, whom he says he had to eu­th­a­nize the day be­fore a re­cent art show open­ing.

Parker’s paint­ings and draw­ings, which are also au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, will dec­o­rate the walls of the Hol­ly­wood cen­ter’s main gallery. Many are un­ti­tled, but in­clude his mother’s quilt show­ing his fam­ily home next to the Sut­ter Buttes, a clus­ter of moun­tain-like peaks and knobs in Sacra­mento Val­ley, Calif. In other draw­ings, made with oil stick and crayon, Parker de­picts Cal­i­for­nia’s re­cent for­est fires in ab­stract swirls and cir­cles.

“Ken­ton Parker: Ev­ery­thing Counts in Small Amounts”

Where: Art and Cul­ture Cen­ter of Hol­ly­wood, 1650 Har­ri­son St. When: Open­ing re­cep­tion from 6 to 9 p.m. Fri­day. Parker will host an artist talk at 1 p.m. Sunday. Clos­ing Aug. 21. Cost: $10 for the open­ing re­cep­tion,$4-$7 for reg­u­lar ad­mis­sion. Con­tact: 954-921-3274, or Ar­tandCul­tureCen­ter.org

“There’s this liv­ing qual­ity to all of the works, like an on­go­ing story,” says Books IIII Bischof, whose Mi­ami Design District gallery, Pri­mary Pro­jects, rep­re­sents Parker. “You see his heart in all of his works.”

Also de­but­ing on June10 with Parker’s ex­hibit will be Car­men Tiffany’s “The Teeth Be­neath,” the Mi­ami artist’s col­lec­tion of pho­tos and mixed-me­dia col­lages that in­ves­ti­gate child­hood imag­i­na­tion in the Amer­ica’s ru­ral ar­eas; and Aurora Molina’s “Selfie,” in which the Cuban-born Mi­ami artist cre­ates em­broi­deries of smart­phone cam­eras show­ing celebri­ties tak­ing self­ies.

ZACK BALBER/COUR­TESY

Ken­ton Parker’s free-stand­ing flower shop sculp­ture, “Al­ways Sorry,” will go on dis­play in­side the Art and Cul­ture Cen­ter of Hol­ly­wood, telling tales of ro­man­tic fail­ure.

Parker

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