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'Checks Cashed' by Bill McMullen

Juxtapoz // Friday, 30 Jul 2010

The new work from the Southern California bred, NYC-based McMullen embraces both Situationism and situation comedy, landing in between with its confrontational black-and-white monochrome language of punk rock fliers and escort-service ads. It’s at once familiar, entertaining, and disturbing, especially to a new generation of consumers who’ve never had to deal with anything like the economic failure, war, or the environmental disasters of today.


McMullen is renowned for his witty, pointed combination of high art presentation, graphic design immediacy, and street art’s confrontational boldness. He’s as well known for his KidRobot toys, Adidas designs, and Beastie Boys album covers as he is for his gallery shows, and he blends that provocative sensibility into Checks Cashed.

Rooted in the visual language familiar to those living paycheck to paycheck, Checks Cashed picks up where McMullen’s previous exhibition at L.A.’s Constant Gallery, 2009’s Hype, Hustle, Rip Off, left off (“Fantastic cutting-edge art – definitely worth seeking out.”) But where Hype… demonstrated McMullen’s multimedia ADD (turning R2D2 into a boombox, reconfiguring Starbucks and Coca-Cola logos into camo combat gear) in his new work, McMullen strips away his relentless, Times Square-meets-Roppongi color palette. Instead, he focuses on the iconic, harsh black-and-white half-tone of old-school newspapers and pre-Internet Xeroxed ‘zines – even down to painting the exhibition walls black, contradicting the traditional gallery “white cube.”


Here, McMullen combines the radical photo-montage of Barbara Kruger and John Heartfield, the pop appropriation of Richard Prince and Andy Warhol, and the irreverent cut-and-paste sampling of hip-hop – all with the flavor of someone known for, say, designing Method Man album covers.


Ultimately, Checks Cashed compels because of that same contradiction: putting his money where his mouth is, McMullen balances conceptual toughness with advertising’s seductive surface and the irreverence of urban culture. – Matt Diehl



Bill McMullen:

Checks Cashed


HVW8 Art + Design Gallery

661 N. Spaulding Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90036


Opening: July 31, 2010, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm Closes: September 14, 2010




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