is the Life
McKimens was born in Seattle (1976), he grew up in Winterhaven, a small
town with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants in the Californian desert on
the borders of Arizona and Mexico and now lives in New York.
His work is focused on drawing, a style of drawing which shows at first
glance the influence of the imagery of comic books.
To my mind, McKimens is one of the finest and most exemplary examples
of the artists of the new generation which has developed the expressive
power of the image without a familiarity with art, the only way until
recently, but instead by devouring comic books. This goes together with
a childhood in Winterhaven, exposed to visual seductions, but those
brought by mass media, which, by their spectacular nature, truly have
the power to penetrate everywhere, far more so than art. As such McKimens
only discovered art a long way down his formative journey, by which
time the founding experiences, those which make up identity, attitudes
and passions, had already taken hold. At this point, reflection on the
works of great masters acted to refine and to add understanding, but
could no longer find a place amongst the basic ingredients.
It can easily be deduced that an artistic training based on reading
comics instead of visiting museums and galleries could bring about a
major shift in the approach to the activity of creativity. Indeed it
would be natural to have a strong leaning towards the elaboration of
the ironic and the grotesque, to hedonism and an easy approach to expression,
although this does not mean that there is any less commitment and study.
Fundamentally, the same communication media had developed a refined
conceptual sophistication, and in much the same way as young artists
make use of it, it has made full use of the complex inventions of art.
In certain aspects it has brought about the prophecy of a “mass
avant-garde”, a controlled experimentation, which, after having
tamed its offspring with the irresistible communicative attraction of
which it is the uncontested master, has finally made it available to
all us mortals.
McKimens draws. The unusual thing is that some of these drawings detach
themselves from the paper, as if by magic, and adventure out into reality.
He has developed an original technique of gluing the figures cut out
of his drawings to wooden or cardboard structures, setting them out
to freely occupy the exhibiting space, in such a way as to make it into
a colourful parallel universe. However these creations do not acquire
an authentic spatial character: on careful examination, McKimens does
not renounce drawing, he does not enter into the area of true sculpture.
He continues to reason in terms of surface, exactly like that of a sheet
of paper, even if this is now self supporting, away from the wall, fitting
together with other surfaces of assembled structures, or pushing out
in depth, without ever betraying their flatness.
In this way the viewer moves through an environment with paradoxical
dimensions, alien to normal three-dimensional perception, subject to
brusque contractions and expansions. McKimens’ show thus offers
the viewer the fascinating experience of physically falling into the
pictorial space, realizing the old dream of leaping into a painting.
The stories find a perfect location in the places and domestic environments
where the artist lived in his years in Winterhaven- in this case, the
great exhibiting space of the gallery evokes the backyard of a typical
American house. In the same way the protagonists are the people he met
then, or rather a generic type of human being, which is made up of a
sort of synthesis, very similar in its male and female versions.
Drawing on these memories, McKimens creates an outcast and separated
world, taken to the extreme by the merciless heat of the South-western
desert, which forces things to reveal their sickening truth. A heat
which becomes an existential condition, like a plague which grabs hold
of everything, working its way even into the molecules, forcing rubber
rings and food, cactuses and men in underpants to crumble in a degenerative
process, as if they had poured out even their soul in a puddle of sweat.
It is only the insects who seem to resist this inexorable degradation,
even benefiting from it, but it is from this degeneration that McKimens
draws a highly effective graphic device: a horrible stain, which could
either be that which is left of a pack of butter accidentally left out
of the fridge, chewing gum chewed up and spat out, a gob of ketchup,
a puddle from a water leak, or even more repulsively, the emissions
of the human body. In the compositions this takes on a constructive,
structural role, as if it was a manifestation of the formless material
of creation, the raw matter, in its still unmodified state, from which
both men and objects are modelled, and which the torrid heat has reduced,
totally or in part, leaving a meal for the flies and the ants.
In some drawings the mark takes on a more compact consistence, which
allows it to rise up and turn itself over like an omelette, and in this
way by happy chance it is animated like a character in a comic, acting
and speaking in a series of frames
There is another presence, and another multiple signifier. It too has
an organic aspect, but it is oblong and twisted like a pudding, in one
instance it is the lace of a shoe, in another an electric cable or a
rubber tube which the temperature has stretched to its limits, making
it twist up in unusual coils.
In this context there is nothing for man to do but stay where he is
and survive, trying to gather the energy to swallow one last cheeseburger.