PRINT December 1995

Martin Maloney


GARY HUME’s solo exhibitions at White Cube and the ICA were the London highlights of 1995. The cool of his earlier door paintings gave way to a funky new style, teasingly mixing abstraction and figuration, the highbrow and the low. With a deadpan mischievousness, Hume lifts and manipulates images from sources as disparate as the daily tabloids and the paintings of Johannes Vermeer and Petrus Christus; put through the processor of his graphic high style, poignant stock-schlock images—hands in the gesture of prayer, a child clutching a teddy bear, the smiling face of a woman—acquire a pared-down elegance, and the old masters take on a touch of trailer trashiness. Hume pulls it all together with sumptuous, high-gloss surfaces and a palette that combines vivid Day-Glos and kitchen-appliance pastels in noxiously offbeat combinations. Looking to the undersides of visual culture and serving them up as supergraphic entertainment (with no moral hangover), Hume earns his reputation as the bad boy of British painting.


MINKY MANKY” was at once the most hyped and least engaging group show of 1995. Attempting to cash in on the success of the Frieze generation and offering nothing new (or for that matter even convincing), the show amounted to little more than a collection of famous names. Presenting works by a handful of by-now established artists who all still trade on their enfants terribles status (including Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, and Tracey Emin, with Gilbert & George thrown in as the granddaddies of British Pop transgression), the show consisted of a mishmash of pieces realized before these artists developed their signature styles and recent works executed with seemingly little conviction. Lacking any of the rebellious energy that put these artists on the map in the first place, this tired show felt complaisantly mediocre, even mainstream—decidedly a step behind the edgy spirit of the ’90s.

The worst individual show of the year was JAKE AND DINOS CHAPMAN’s at Victoria Miro. Shallow and slick, it consisted of a single sculpture of deformed children sporting training shoes and an assortment of adult genitalia, their bodies joined, Siamese twin-style. Hard to look at and impossible to look beyond, Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic De-sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged X 1000), 1995, amounted to a glib (and failed) attempt to shock that mistook sensationalism for radicality. Less a piece of art than a calculated cause célèbre, the Chapmans’ work ultimately seemed almost conservative in its strategic deliberateness—a failure in all the ways Hume’s paintings were a success.

Martin Maloney is an artist, curator, and writer who contributes regularly to The Burlington Magazine and Flash Art.