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CHEIM & READ: McDermott & McGough | Don Bachardy - 17 Jan 2013 to 23 Feb 2013

Current Exhibition

17 Jan 2013 to 23 Feb 2013
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 6pm
547 West 25th Street
NY 10001
New York, NY
New York
North America
T: 212 242 7727
F: 212 242 7737

McDermott & McGough
17 Jan 2013 to 23 Feb 2013

Artists in this exhibition: David McDermott, Peter McGough, Don Bachardy

McDermott & McGough: Suspicious of rooms without music or atmosphere

Opening reception Thursday January 17 from 6 to 8 pm
Exhibition continues through February 23, 2013

Cheim & Read is pleased to announce an exhibition of painting, sculpture and works on paper by the collaborative duo McDermott and McGough entitled Suspicious of rooms without music or atmosphere. The show will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue.

David McDermott and Peter McGough (born 1952 and 1958 respectively) attended the University of Syracuse in the 1970s. In the 80s, the two were known in New York City's East Village art scene for their self-immersion in the Victorian era, their lives and art strictly defined by the early 1900s. Through this time-based "portal," McDermott and McGough challenged the chronological boundaries of art history and cultural identity. They questioned the nature of nostalgia and narrative, and the ways in which the past is conceptually and contextually reoriented for the future. The subsequent evolution of their work has found them more recently inspired by Hollywood cinema, advertising tropes, and comic books of the 1950s and 60s - the duo again searching for identity within an artificial world. In their current exhibition at Cheim & Read, focus resides in images of self-introspection and human emotion: scenes which emphasize the absurdity and cruelty of life's journey are at the forefront.

Several photo-realist paintings juxtapose carefully selected movie scenes in which a decisive moment is central. The paintings are generally composed of two separate "images" from different movies, one black-and-white and one color, allowing for new and alternate readings of existing narratives. Rendered on a two-dimensional surface, the scene's original context is frozen, its meaning repositioned. While the female protagonist is often a recognizable actress (Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, etc.), McDermott and McGough deny the importance of this factor - they look instead for expressions which convey emotional impact. Scenes in which a choice must be made or has just been made are especially tension-filled, and the resulting paintings become emblematic of this internal drama. Within sumptuous, well-appointed rooms - "manufactured" by Hollywood and echoing the commercial artifice of our own lives - lone female figures are ensnared by the consequences of their decisions. An ashtray and empty bottle are symbolic of lost youth; a desolate train station is a metaphor for dashed dreams.

Accompanying works on paper for the show evolved from the paintings, and contrast the latter's careful realism with a looser hand. The images - painted gouache on top of ink jet print-outs - also begin with a crucial cinematic moment, but are elaborated upon with faceted, brightly colored, almost psychedelic shapes. The execution of the flatly-painted forms, though focused, is organic and abstract, echoing and affirming the psychic fragmentation of the characters depicted. A sculptural work - all painted wood - brings this fragmentation into another dimension. In the piece, 9 boxes, all one-foot square, depict a terrified face (Anne Francis in the Twilight Zone). The shock conveyed by her expression is reiterated by the physical fracturing of the image, and the possible variations implied by its separate parts.

While the comedy of the drama is not lost on the artists, McDermott & McGough ultimately strive to reveal complex psychological portraits. They are fascinated by the impact of one's choices in life and the quick disintegration of well-laid plans after a bad turn. The fragility of existence - the unfairness and perversity of life - in part defines the search for self. McDermott and McGough's continued appropriation of popular imagery underscores their work's themes and re-engages ideas of time and memory. By using Hollywood films as their subject, they start off with archetypal notions of beauty and desire, and thus comment on the cultural and consumerist constructions of our own identities. The emotional self requires deeper introspection. In a room without music or atmosphere, we are left in solitude; without distraction we face ourselves.

Don Bachardy: Portraits From a Canyon: Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s
Selected by Jack Pierson

Opening reception Thursday January 17 from 6 to 8 pm
Exhibition continues through February 23, 2013

Cheim & Read is pleased to announce an exhibition of a suite of drawings by Don Bachardy: Portraits From a Canyon: Los Angeles in the 60s and 70s. The show was selected by Jack Pierson.
Born in Los Angeles in 1934, Don Bachardy attended UCLA, the Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles and the Slade School of Art, London. In 1952, at age 18, he met and fell in love with novelist Christopher Isherwood. Despite a 30-year age difference and cultural prejudices of the time, the two maintained a devoted relationship until Isherwood's death in 1986. A well-respected, prominent figure in the Hollywood scene, Isherwood introduced the young Bachardy to a talented circle of bohemian artists and writers. With Isherwood's encouragement, Bachardy pursued his art degree and soon became established in his own right, taking the lively group as his subject. He had his first one-man show in 1961 in London. The mid-60s to 70s subsequently proved to be a particularly productive time, as evidenced by the drawings in this exhibition.

By capturing the essence of his subjects, Bachardy conveys the spirit of the time and place in which they were made. The hair, clothes and postures depicted are certainly emblematic of 1960s and 70s L.A., but it is Bachardy's unique ability to render his sitter's distinctive presence that is most evocative of the period. The portraits selected for this show are a remarkable collection- among them Warren Beatty and Richard Deacon, Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, and Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford and a youthful Elton John, artist Ed Ruscha and writers Joan Didion, Anaïs Nin, and James Baldwin.

However famous his subject, Bachardy was, and remains, egalitarian in his approach. He did not seek out celebrities, but rather drew those who were disciplined enough to sit, virtually unmoving, for several hours. Modesty dictated a common approach: all sat in the same place in his studio, with a view of the Pacific. Bachardy completes his portraits in one sitting, thus retaining the immediacy of his approach; he works quietly and precisely, rendering little extraneous information. When describing the process of selecting work for the show, Jack Pierson commented upon the effects of Bachardy's concentration: individual lines, drawn with obvious freedom and speed, are remarkably abstract close-up, but coalesce, almost magically, to a unique but realistic likeness. Pierson also noted the variety of mark-making in a single drawing - Bachardy uses the full range of his materials, from the ethereal silver of graphite to the dense black staccato of India ink. Areas of intense focus - the hair, face and gaze - are contrasted by the minimal description of a sleeve or shoulder, as if over-exposed. Drenched in light, the sitter seems to materialize before our eyes. Bachardy's process parallels that of David Hockney, a good friend, and anticipates Elizabeth Peyton's fine-lined portraits.

Most strikingly, Bachardy's images convey a profound sense of intimacy and introspection. The familiarity of his working method is heightened by an unspoken tension between artist and subject. His careful scrutiny led one sitter to declare her love for him, and another to comment on the many times he looked up while drawing, as if his pencil was a fluid extension of his eye. Bachardy asks his sitters to sign the drawings with him, confirming the collaborative aspect of his process. Ultimately, the viewer collaborates too: in looking at the portraits, one reactivates the initial exchange, meeting the gaze of a past era.

Bachardy lives and works in Santa Monica, California. His work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University; and the National Portrait Gallery, London, among others.


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