The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: John Parot

The "Work of Art" Exit Interview: John Parot

ARTINFO caught up with John Parot, one of the two contestants vote off Work of Art this week, to discuss his commission to design a book cover, his inspirations, and what he learned from his experience misspelling "fellatio."  

What have you been up to since you left the show?

What have I been up to? I had a solo show at Western Exhibitions, my gallery in Chicago. It was a very fun show. Last night I had a book signing party with Penguin, celebrating their 75th Anniversary. It was promotion for The Time Machine, which I designed the cover for. It was kind of amazing: people wanted me to sign the book, and I didn't even write it.

Your aesthetic has been very influenced by graphic design, it seems. Do you consider yourself a designer? Did that interest work against you on the show?

I think in this day and age you have to be influenced by other things than just fine art. I’ve made it a known fact that I’m inspired by growing up in the 1980s, by early MTV videos, album covers, the graphic design on book jackets. I'm inspired by things that are out in the culture. Whether or not that is a bad thing, I don’t think so. I think that you have to know what you’re attracted to in order to make something that will excite your audience.

Will you take the judge’s criticisms to heart and incorporate them into your practice?

I think that the judges had something interesting to say about my work. This project felt more like an assignment. It's not something that typically happens in my studio. When I go to my studio, I don’t get out a blank canvas and say, “I’m going to make something shocking.” Artists make artwork to show people what we’re thinking and how we’re reacting to the culture. This felt like an exercise to fail more than anything else. So their criticism may be valid for some things, but not really this assignment.

Why did you sign up for the show? Did it live up to your expectations?

I signed up for the show because I was really interested in more people looking at my artwork. As a gay artist, there’s not a lot of us out there who are practicing and showing work with my point of view. I thought it would be really up my alley because it’s personality based, and there’s a lot of myself in a lot of my artwork. I just moved from Chicago to California, and I didn’t really know many people in California, and I always like to meet new artists, so it seemed like a good idea. Why not give it a try? I’m always trying to challenge myself with new projects, and that’s what I kind of thought this was — a new project.

Will this show bring out the next great artist?

I don’t think so, but I think it will help all the artists that were on the show solidify their art careers and really like make them think about how much they love what they do. I don’t think that it really matters who wins. There are so many types of artists. There’s going to be a Jaclyn artist, there’s going to be an Eric artist, there’s going to be a John artist, and I think that’s the real power of the show. We’re blowing up the stereotype on American art making and I think that’s exciting. What’s more exciting than a Brooklyn Museum solo show? Whoever wins the show, it will be another stop on their path, and I’m excited for that person.

What are your greatest regrets from the show? When you misspelled fellatio?

Yes I did, "fellatio" is one of those words that you think you know, but then you realize that you don't know how to spell it. I think that "fellatio" is one of those words that we all know what it means regardless of its spelling, so I thought it was fine, not that big of a deal.

Any regrets?

I said some amazing things on camera that got kind of edited out, so I would have liked more of my personality to come shining through. But what are you going to do? It’s only an hour show.

Any other regrets? Do you wish you had made something more shocking?

Artists have already addressed every taboo. I felt like the cards were stacked against us. Jerry Saltz has seen every show in the last 25 years. He saw the Cremaster Cycle like 55 times. We’re going to try to shock him? I thought we were doomed from the beginning!

So your winning piece bears a very strong resemblance to the art of Chris Johanson. Are you familiar with his work?

Yes, I am familiar with his work. I’ve know Chris Johanson, met him a couple of times. we’ve been in a lot of shows together and you know people have mentioned that relationship to him. If you look at my past work you will see similarities throughout and differences. Chris Johanson’s work is all about immediacy and you know crudeness, and just putting it out there on the paper as fast as possible. My work is a little bit more finessed and a bit more refined and exact.

Last question. What will you take from the experience of being on the show?

This is, this was a great experience. I mean winning the book cover was definitely something that I have always been interested in. I love the fact that I am an artist and my work lives in galleries and collections, but it is also important to me that Joe Public can go out to any store, go online, and buy a book that has one of my images on it. It was crazy for me to have my work exposed and for people to see what I do. It was accessible to everyone on the planet — well, except for people in North Korea. It was a thrill.