Three dozen brightly colored, felt heads impaled on wooden posts populate five windows on a bustling New York City intersection. Among the menagerie are imagined creatures, American icons, high school crushes, and self-portraits. The resulting spectacle unravels the invented and extant, the beautiful and the grotesque, what we desire and what we fear. Adam Parker Smith’s Bold As Love, an installation inspired by an execution scene in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, mischievously reveals how we perform, sensationalize and consume violence.
Our histories and myths are crowded with tales of executions as sport or as warning, for country or for love. In his novel set during the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway fictionalized the horrific real-life execution of fascist sympathizers in the town of Ronda in 1936. In a pivotal scene, accused fascists are gathered by their neighbors, held captive, flayed and herded off a cliff. With the protagonists as the perpetrators, we comprehend the celebration and horror of the act.
These contradictory emotions are conjured in Smith’s installation. Passersby are arrested by the theatrics, beauty, and humor of the spectacle; only after closer inspection do they perceive the underlying horror of the scene. “That is the beauty of it,” one of Hemingway’s peasants explains, “there must be many blows.” Bold As Love was initiated through Smith’s collaboration with Chicago-area high school students at the Blue Sky Project artists residency program, the series has been re-contextualized in the Broadway Windows. The curators have collaborated with Smith to construct a head, which is also on view.
Adam Parker Smith lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He holds an M.F.A. in Painting from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. He is represented by Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York; Galerie Nordine Zidoun, Paris; and Parisian Laundry, Montreal.
This exhibition was curated by NYU students Han-Yuan Chia, Sarah Ferguson, Molly Kleiman and Sari Mandel.