NEW DEFINITIONS: KEVIN MCNAMEE-TWEED AT STEVE TURNER
Leah Ollman | April 22, 2021
Kevin McNamee-Tweed’s proclivity for the fragment and for small to very small formats can make his shows read like trails of clues. “Probable Presence,” an assemblage of nearly seventy works dated between 2019 and 2021, feels like an unspooling of partial disclosures, an aggregation of winks and nods. Throughout his drawings, paintings, and works in clay, McNamee-Tweed borrows words and images from vintage comics, art history, advertising, and other sources, replicating and repurposing each bit of material to archive wonders from the external world, and fashion an ongoing portrait of his domestic, psychic interior. Across media, he quotes and cheekily misquotes. One of his colored pencil drawings, Long Red Haired Woodpecker (2020), transforms a naturalist’s record of a hairy woodpecker into an incongruously sultry pinup by trading the bird’s distinctive red cap for a long, cherry-red tress. Another drawing, Blowing Bibbles of Sibbles (2020), recasts Chardin’s Soap Bubbles (ca. 1733–34) as a cartoonish sketch, falling ambiguously between spoof and homage. In several works on paper, McNamee-Tweed tries out the sort of montage that emerged with the modern city, scattering across the page overlapping glimpses of figures marching in lockstep and echoed words, pumping the composition with energy and speed. It’s not inconsequential that the artist is also a writer; he revels in the visuality of language, assimilates the found poetry of signage, alludes to the idiosyncrasies of hand-lettering, and renders tribute to bygone fonts. He has also worked as a curator, and that role, too, with its functions of selecting, isolating, and constellating, resonates with the gleaning central to his art-making process.