Mike Kelley (1954-) and Paul McCarthy (1945-), An Architecture Composed of the Paintings of Richard Powers and Francis Picabia, 1997
Kelley and McCarthy’s work is a large, labyrinthine construction built from enormous canvases. If you move into the labyrinth, you lose your bearings. You are surrounded by billboard-sized repetitions of the US comic-book artist Richard Powers’ (1957-) psychedelic science fiction landscapes.
The pictures of Francis Picabia
In the labyrinth’s two innermost rooms, you are overwhelmed by giant replicas of pictures by the canonised modernist Francis Picabia (1879-1953). In one room, a sultry boudoir atmosphere is conjured up by his late paintings of semi-nude women inspired by semi-erotic pin-ups from the 1940s and 1950s. Interestingly, the second Picabia room, featuring replicas of four abstract paintings – the absolute top category within modernistic art – takes on a similarly vulgar feel.
Modernday USA as a labyrinth
Labyrinths have always acted as a metaphor of the subject’s loss of orientation and control. One is mercilessly ushered through a structure whose overall plan or purpose remains hidden from view. Kelley and McCarthy believe that this is also characteristic of modernday USA, which they perceive as a power structure with hidden, inscrutable intentions and failing logics. A place where the entertainment industry has replaced free, earnest self-fulfilment.