Vito Schnabel is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by the collaborative duo David McDermott and Peter McGough. This is their first solo show with Vito Schnabel.
Over their thirty-year career, McDermott & McGough have produced work that challenges art historical hierarchies and cultural identities. Consistently toying with the chronological boundaries of time by conceptually repositioning themselves in different periods, the duo question the nature of nostalgia and narrative, exposing the limitations of linear thought through a social and political reorientation. Their new body of paintings, titled Culmination, not only encompasses the artists’ conceptual and aesthetic concerns over the past three decades, it also attempts to “culminate” the hegemony of abstraction. Appropriately, the pair’s very first collaboration was an abstract painting commissioned by McDermott’s mother to complement her 1950s decor. As McDermott & McGough’s partnership began in the realm of fabricated abstraction, and these new works bring their practice full circle.
The Culmination paintings originate with European fashion magazines, dating from 1911, in which indecipherable, two-page dress patterns of superimposed sleeves, bodices, collars and skirts are printed in constellations of curving lines, dashes, planes and points. Working from a group of thirty or so different dress patterns, McDermott & McGough enlarge and print the lines on canvas, then meditatively color each shape with acrylic, resulting in a faceted, web-like surface of color and line: an abstract painting. The artists’ reference turn-of-the-century Kindergarten manuals and coloring books, theorizing that the futurist and cubist artists of the time fondly revisited the shaped-based patterns of childhood when creating their angled compositions.
McDermott & McGough’s theoretical return to the origins of abstraction, as conflated with contemporaneous dress patterns from popular magazines, results in a rich tableau of multiple readings. Though evocative of Futurist canvases the works in Culmination are rooted firmly in the early 1950s. The artists’ position these works at the height of American abstraction to challenge the celebrated myth of the male-dominated New York School. Their technique of “Manufacturing” abstract paintings out of 20th century sewing patterns (which are harbingers of modern domesticity) subverts the historically masculine form of abstract paintings with underpinnings of the feminine. The artists’ distort nostalgia for post-war art with complex notions of gender, history, authenticity and artistic process.
As always with their work, McDermott & McGough’s sly reconstruction of the past rests on keen understanding of the present. They jump in and out of time periods, re-contextualizing inspirations and processes from the past, revealing the cultural and societal construct of time as having surprisingly flaccid boundaries. Yet their work remains altogether unique.
Born 1952 and 1958 respectively, David McDermott and Peter McGough both attended the University of Syracuse, New York, in the 1970s, and met in New York City’s East Village art scene in the 80s. They live and work in New York and Dublin. McDermott & McGough’s work has been shown internationally in exhibitions at Sperone Westwater, New York; Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Manezh Moscow and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. They were included in the Whitney Biennial in 1987, 1991 and 1995. McDermott & McGough are represented by Cheim & Read, New York.