Lucy McKenzie – Prime Suspect
A formidable painter known for her deployment of illusionistic trompe l’oeil effects and architecturally-scaled installations, Lucy McKenzie (b. Glasgow, 1977) quickly established herself as one of the most exciting artists of her generation. Developed in close collaboration with the artist herself, and featuring over 80 works dating from 1997 to the present, the exhibition will bring together examples from all of the artist’s significant bodies of work and for the first time examine the full scope of her oeuvre.
ca. 90 minutes
About the exhibition
Lucy McKenzie excavates and appropriates images, objects, and motifs from the histories of art, architecture, and design; literature, music, and film; fashion, politics, and sport. She transforms these source materials using the outmoded techniques of nineteenth-century decorative painting, creating surprising new constellations that illuminate an alternative history of painting that emphasizes the vernacular, the domestic, and the collaborative. The so-called “applied arts” emerge as key points in a narrative that diverges from the established chronologies of the avant-garde and modern art.
Although renowned as a painter, McKenzie’s oeuvre also includes drawings, texts, sculptural objects, and videos. Often both collaborative and interdisciplinary, her practice has often extended beyond the gallery space to include the founding of a record label, a bar, and a successful line of ready-to-wear fashion, among other activities. Developed in close collaboration with the artist herself, this exhibition will provide an opportunity to examine the full scope of her oeuvre for the first time anywhere.
With over 80 works dating from 1997 to the present, the exhibition will bring together examples from all of the artist’s significant bodies of work, including her early paintings of athletes and scenes from Cold War-era Olympic games and 1980s pop music; her subsequent engagement with the traditions of Scottish and Eastern European muralism; Belgian illustration and typography; large-scale paintings based on historic architectural drawings; the collaborative fashion label and research project Atelier E.B; recent trompe l’oeil works blurring the lines between painting, sculpture, and furniture; and her ongoing series of Quodlibet paintings; as well as new works commissioned especially for the exhibition.
Most houses are inhabited by different people over the years. All these residents shape the house through their respective tastes. On the other hand, sometimes houses are designed and built from the outset to meet the needs and desires of specific people. Both modes of living and designing interest the artist Lucy McKenzie. In her journeys through the last 200 years of architectural history and practice, she has always kept in mind the traces of time: through various techniques of appropriation, she transfers elements of past styles into new contexts, creates historical superimpositions, and examines the socio-critical aspects of the original works – pointedly or provocatively – through these connections. This is visible in one of her series of works from the mid-2000s, in which she transferred interior drawings from the turn of the twentieth century onto large canvases at almost life size – to see what it feels like to “be in a drawing”. The same can be seen in McKenzie’s wall paintings and murals, which she not only regards as a typically propagandistic art form in the political sense, but which she also mobilizes as a means to uncover the ideologies that can be concealed within and beneath architectural forms and styles.
“There's no point in time where everything is just contemporary.”
Gender politics and feminism
No project by Lucy McKenzie can be understood in isolation from the examination of gender politics and female self-determination. From very early on, the artist has dealt with representations of women in fashion, sports, architecture, and literature. She employs various strategies to expose and critique sexism and misogyny in trenchant, often satirical, ways. As McKenzie herself says, she is always concerned with attempts to absorb or reinterpret fictional female identities. The artist openly highlights female sexuality – for example through the depiction of masturbation or menstruation. When she places other female artists and authors in the focus of her work, it is not to flatter them, but to challenge existing visual cultures and gender norms. McKenzie is interested in artists like Agatha Christie, Muriel Spark, and Madeleine Vionnet, each of whom represents technical brilliance, a consistent attitude, and a precise perception of the world.
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive and abundantly illustrated catalogue, providing the first systematic representation and scholarly analysis of Lucy McKenzie’s oeuvre. Alongside an essay by exhibition curator Jacob Proctor, the catalogue will include contributions by noted international artists, critics, and historians of art and design. It will appear in two editions (German, English) and will become the standard reference work for the ongoing international and interdisciplinary engagement with McKenzie’s work.