McDermott & McGough’s almost four-decade-long dedication to their own highly idiosyncratic personal and artistic style-dapper, Victorian, really queer-is so deep-rooted that the duo famously lived in a home with no electric light or plumbing. The slant of “Velvet Rage, Flaming Youth, and the Gift of Desperation,” McDermott & McGough’s first show at this downtown gallery, is as carefully constructed as the artists’ art-and-lifestyle balance. The new paintings on view feature portraits of women in nineteenth-century dress surrounded by fragments of imagery from their work of the 1980s (multicolored swirls and starbursts, coats of arms, portraits of dandies). Another makes reference to an early twentieth-century cartoon depicting a “pansy” trying to order a drink at a bar). The show’s most compelling piece, however, is a shrine of sorts to Onan, who was struck down by God for masturbating (per the Old Testament). Comprised of a carved wooden table with phalluses emerging from breasts, two ceramic urns, and three gold-framed masturbation-themed paintings, the installation is one of McDermott & McGough’s most elaborate and overt critiques of the history of the repression of homosexuality yet.
—Leigh Anne Miller
Pictured: McDermott and McGough: “Hic Habitat Felicitas” / Temple of Onan, 1984 / 2016, oil on canvas in wooden gold painted frame, hand-carved wooden table painted with oil and gouache, two ceramid urns painted with acrylic gouache. Courtesy James Fuentes, New York.