McDermott & McGough, Love, friendship and conjugal bliss, 1917, 2010, Courtesy of the artists


October 20th – December 05th, 2010 – KUNSTHALLE wien project space,

“I’ve seen the Future and I’m not going” has been an appropriate motto for the art and life style of the duo David McDermott and Peter McGough. The two gay artists, whose roots are to be found in the New York vaudeville scene, have made it their purpose in life to escape the triteness of the contemporary everyday world with their dandyish attitude and by conceiving blue- or sepia-toned parallel universes.

The spirit of past centuries wafts through their aesthetic constructions – rural idyll instead of concrete, silent films instead of high-definition TV, Pre-Raphaelite nostalgia instead of Leipzig School, a photo camera from the 1910s instead of a digicam. The two time-travelers’ art unfolds as a meditation on the transitory character of things and the illusionary nature of each here and now. Breaking up the space-time continuum, they confront chronologies with the simultaneity of different historically charged moments of a hallucinated past – splendidly isolated time capsules as aesthetic monads orbiting the materiality and excesses of a critically questioned present. “McDermott and McGough,” says the art critic Erik Wenzel, “blend painting, photography, installation, and performance to get something whole – art and life.”

The exhibition centers around McDermott and McGough’s most recent works produced after a historical printing process and titled after their former home in Ireland: in 39 cyan-blue photographs the artists portray their house at 26 Sandymount Avenue in Dublin, where they have stylized historicity to a gesamtkunstwerk and time has long since come to a standstill; the title of each photograph dates the pictures back to the year 1917. McDermott & McGough not only celebrate the lifestyle of two gentlemen from a past century in their private sphere; they also fall back on traditional genres and historical techniques lending their shots the character of paintings in their art. The selected cyanotypes show interiors, still lifes, landscapes, and portraits characterized by atmospherically soft contours,
steeped in diffuse light conditions, or determined by a precise view of details. The mise-en-scène of the house on Sandymount Avenue in the style of pictorialist photography – which traditionally steers clear of motifs of progress (such as those of industrialization toward the end of the nineteenth century) is conceived as a long-term work in progress. With its worn furniture and old-fashioned household appliances, its flower vases and patterned wallpapers, the house is also a melancholy place marked by signs of decay, an intimate space and work of art whose picturesque idyll is continuously restored.

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