November 23 - January 23, 2013
galerie jerome de noirmont

Strenuous briefness, 1965. 2011-2012. Oil on linen. 152,4 x 122,5 cm - 60 x 48 in.

exhibition release

The group of 12 new paintings that is presented at the gallery from 23 November 2012 to 23 January 2013 for the In Dreams You’re Mine exhibition reflect a new development in McDermott & McGough’s interest in America from the 1940s to the 1960s.  This time, they combine images of melodramatic Hollywood movies and romance comic strip panels with large areas of paint in brightly colored geometric shapes.

“We’re fascinated with the human condition. It’s not about old films or cartoons. "

In the timeless approach that remains the basis of their work, the artists have, since 2006, drawn from the powerful narrative and dramatic imagery from the Hollywood Movies of the 1940s to the 1960s. This "melodramatic" genre was based on the exaggeration or even the excess of emotion and reached its highest (and lowest) point in post-war Hollywood.

The 2006 exhibition Please don’t stop loving me ! featured paintings that placed film and comics side by side in a chronological error that is reinforced by very suggestive titles (Romance can die like a cigarette, 1965;  Because of him, 1965;  How could it end like this?, 1965). Then in 2009, the exhibition Without you I am nothing brought together paintings composed only of film images superimposed on the same canvas like an image projected and stopped on a screen, thus concentrating all the dramatic force in the work.

The new paintings exhibited here focus on the strongest moment of the plot. As Glenn O´Brien said, these works reveal themselves as "epiphanies".  They are not "a celebration of retro style."  We feel we are in front of sudden illuminations.  The moments chosen here by McDermott & McGough are indeed of great narrative importance and are all, without exception, key moments of the plot. Thus, in the work Insidious Intent, 1965, actress Moira Shearer, with eyes rolling upwards, literally takes her head in her hands as if just hearing horrible news or an incredibly devastating revelation.

Peter McGough adds : “What I look for in the film is the point where the character reaches the fork in the road. You see it in their eyes or the expression on their face. Where are they going to go from here?  I’m fascinated with the decisions people make and why, whether it’s a tragedy or they go on to success, happiness,  glory… whatever.  There’s always a point where it’s all in the eyes for me, where they realize it’s the turning point of their life."

Here McDermott & McGough use extracts synonymous with big emotional break ups. They represent lonely women perpetually waiting in tears for their husband or for the big romantic love story, living the drama of loneliness or adultery; real pictures of the feminine condition at the time.  An intense seriousness immediately emerges from these extracts (Almost at times, the Fool, 1965) to such an extent that the attitudes of these women become almost pathetic or even caricatural.  It is a seriousness and an excess of emotion related to the tensions coming from a post-war dramatization, at the height of the woman as object cliché before the beginnings of her liberation "when the work of a woman was just being a woman”.   This is particularly reflected in the title and imagery of These dolls of joy and grief, 1965.

"Almost a color therapy"1... "A fight between depression and happiness"1..."While fatality may lurk, hope seems to have the chromatic upper hand."1

The main feature of this series is these images of incredible sadness juxtaposed with large areas of geometric shape done in extremely bright and warm colors. They appear in stark contrast to the tragic expressions of the selected topics. These brilliant contrasts are intended by the artists to give a special resonance to the emotional extremes that carry their paintings between distress and happiness, optimism and pessimism just as Among some talk of you and me, 1965  blatantly reveals.

These geometric areas of vibrant colors obviously refer to the De Stijl and Mondrian school of Neoplasticism from the 1920s and 30s  (which aimed for utopian harmony in a balance achieved by oppositions), to advertising and especially to the style of Alexey Brodovitch, the historic artistic director of Harper´s Bazaar from 1938 to 1958 and American fashion icon.

Exposed alongside these paintings and addressing the same subject are a recent set of 5 painted carved wood sculptures beautifully executed by hand.  They depict boxes filled with "comics". In an obvious reference to Warhol and consumer products that embodied the spirit of America in the sixties, McDermott & McGough chose cardboard boxes of famous brands like Brillo, Heinz or Campbell´s which they dated 1966 (Andy Warhol’s were exposed for the first time at the Stable Gallery in New York, 1964).

Fake comics are stacked in these fake boxes with titles such as Young Love, My Life or Young Romance.  Popular in the United States in the 50s, these comics contributed to the spread of the melodramatic genre going where cinema couldn’t go. Like the paintings of McDermott & McGough, the covers of these "comics" set their bright and attractive colors up against the heightened dramatic intrigue that they contained, sometimes even dealing with taboo subjects.

Through these representations of  women in a changing post-war America,  the paintings of In Dreams You´re Mine aim, in a more philosophical way,  to put humanity in front of its doubts and its decisive choices by freeing itself from the dictates of modernism. As Glenn O´Brien said, "In short, this would seem to be the perfect time for a Declaration of Independence from Modernism. We have lately witnessed the reappearance of beards and tattoos and fedoras on our city streets.  The kids are making cheese in the shed and bourbon in the bathtub.  Among the intelligentsia we’ve seen a revival of artisanship and old-fashioned farming techniques. It seems that the ideas of McDermott & McGough have actually gone mainstream and we have begun to examine areas of the past for future use."  The writer suggests looking at the work of McDermott & McGough not as a post-modernism but rather as a post-irony, beyond the simple contradiction between literal and figurative meaning.