McDermott & McGough: Cheim & Read

By Breidenbach, Tom | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

McDermott & McGough: Cheim & Read


Breidenbach, Tom, Artforum International


In their recent exhibition, "A True Story Based on Lies," McDermott & McGough presented a series of crisply painted, brightly colored canvases that rework lurid comic book and commercial illustrations. Chump into a Champ, 1964, 2005, for example, shows the iconic Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad in which a skinny loser gets shoved in the face by a fairground muscle man, only to buff up and avenge himself, thereby winning the adoration of a girlfriend who had earlier joined in mocking him.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The background of the Pop-style montage Don't Be Half a Man, 1964, 2005, depicts the other famous Atlas ad aimed at demeaning sensitive string beans, in which the hapless scrawny boy--called "girlie" by his tormentor--returns after his Atlas workout to punch out a beach brute. The upper foreground of this montage also shows, in profile, the free-floating bust of a young, muscular Guy Madison, his boyish face an encapsulation, in this context, of the rapturous allure of the postadolescent and also, if more lightly, the potentially lethal danger that attends the homoerotic. Below him in the lower foreground of the work another muscular all-American pretty boy in shorts and a torn short-sleeve shirt struggles against a giant grasping masculine hand. A metaphor for the fundamentally sadomasochistic nature of so many human interactions, the painting conjures the guilt-ridden voyeurism of adolescent fantasy.

One might be forgiven for mistaking these works for a lost trove of paintings by some Pop pioneer. …

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