We have come to know the girls in Marlene McCarty’s seething, virtually breathing portraits. These kids could well be our neighbours and that’s the frightening part. They are killers, but also mothers and/or daughters, who end up in jail and then just disappear. Let us not forget the bible thumping parents who beat their toddler to death. McCarty has been investigating the most heinous and often inexplicable crimes for years. More recently, the artist-cum-primatologist walked into another jungle to capture a few wild apes. Witness the irresistible chimpanzees saunter through her new drawings with a confidence that seems to come naturally to them. Who are these beasts? And what are they doing in McCarty’s drawings? There’s a touch of Jane Goodall in McCarty’s chimps, drawn in spare pencil with the discipline of a scientist’s attention to detail. Every ripple of flesh and patch of hair looks painstakingly real. But there’s also a bit of Disney in their grins. The chimps look too happy and they are way too close to the humans in their midst. McCarty’s sensual portrait of a young, seminal primatologist, wrapped in the embrace of a hairy primate, reveals the artist’s irrepressible affection for primates. In her peaceable kingdom humans and non-humans have achieved a visible parity. Enjoy this illusion because it is a temporary one. Eventually, we must follow the breadcrumbs and find out the actual stories underpinning the drawings, only briefly obscured by our projections and preconceptions about these amiable creatures.
Extract from catalogue essay, The Hard-Keepers by Elizabeth Hess
A full colour catalogue will accompany this exhibition.
Selection of images from the exhibition
Born 1957, Marlene McCarty now lives and works in New York having studied at the University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture and Art 1975-77 and Schule für Gestaltung, Basel Switzerland from 1978-83. McCarty has worked across various media since the 1980s. She was a member of the AIDS activist collective Gran Fury and was the co-founder of the transdisciplinary design studio Bureau along with Donald Moffett. Using everyday materials such as graphite, ballpoint pen, and highlighter, McCarty probes issues ranging from sexual and social formation to parricide and infanticide. A major survey exhibition of her work, I’m unto you now: some work from 1980 -2010, organized by Michael Cohen, was presented in 2010 at New York University’s 80WSE galley. Her work is in the collection of major institutions including MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum and MoCA Los Angles.