Lucy McKenzie

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
October 23, 2014–January 18, 2015

View of “focus: Lucy McKenzie,” 2014–15.

By connecting selections from culture with instances from earlier years in her own creative practice, Lucy McKenzie scrutinizes both the apparatus of history and conceptions of selfhood. A shop window from Fritz Lang’s M, the 1972 Olympics, and Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange are among McKenzie’s source materials in this exhibition, and—as a hallmark of appropriation’s effects—she destabilizes these references through their duplication and recontextualization. But the mystery set forth is why these touchstones have been evoked, a query that McKenzie anticipates pointing back to herself, the author whose appearances are mischievously elusive. Leotards displayed on mannequins correspond to those worn by McKenzie and friends in photographic documentation from art school projects on view here. In one corner of a gallery, several previous paintings are stored in a rack rather than hung, including Mates, 2004, one of several large canvases throughout the exhibition painted to imitate lustrous, veined marble—a repeated sign of the show’s coy subterfuge. In the marble trompe l’oeil Quodlibet XXXII, 2014, McKenzie has reproduced pages torn from Riot Grrrl zines she made as a teen in the early 1990s in studied oil-painting renditions. Mediums have been mismatched in these re-creations of previous bodies of work, and in switching modes of production, McKenzie levels out any unselfconscious personal expression that may have been legible.

Finally, The Girl Who Followed Marple, 2014, a video installation produced in collaboration with Richard Kern (for whom McKenzie modeled when she was young), introduces a faux Marple into the mix—among the faux-marble paintings in the show—with the artist herself disguised as Agatha Christie’s beloved sleuth, who leaves her audience in search of effective strategies for constructing meaning that need not rely on spent art-historical value systems.

— Matt Morris