Mixed Media, Sweet and Bitter
`IT can't be too sweet,'' said Emmett McDermott, referring to the disposition of his pictures, and he repeated it, ``it can't be too sweet.'' I wonder about this all the time. Is it naive to be positive, mean to be negative? Is it up to us to provide balance in what we do? Doesn't it just happen naturally? Or is it all like cooking? A pinch of sugar, a dash of salt? Emmett McDermott makes images a little like that. They have a lot in them. They are technically called mixed media, but they are more mixed than that. Odd, displaced photographic cutouts, three color dot separations, float in sumptuous fields of color. Shapes are isolated within these floating images as though to put a lens to them. Dots and squares expand and contract to redirect the flow of movement and focus. The pop/surreal sensibility inhabits a kind of still life, portrait, or landscape, but their cleverness and lyricism delivers them far from such a static fate. The pre sence of words adds just another springboard, launching new dimensions within this multilayered experience. These are for the most part comic pictures, from the biting to the ridiculous, dream-like satires on political and social life.
MCDERMOTT says that he likes to make his images as quickly as possible; if he could blink his eyes and have them done he would. It might surprise some people that an artist would want to have that little to do with the making, the process, of what they're doing. Well, McDermott is an imagemaker, and the faster he can get one to happen the better. It means that it will fly that much lighter and swifter. He doesn't want himself or the viewer to get tangled up in the process, he wants everyone to take the plane.
What is going on in these pictures is not too sweet. They have a very attractive presence, a seductive look about them that is quickly undercut by an unsettling cynicism. That is the balance, a sweet, almost cloying skin and a bitter fruit. What ends up talking to us is the space in between, all kinds of associations which are up for grabs.
It is one more irony that Emmett McDermott uses fire to fight fire. He takes aim with a boomerang, and targets a shallow, vain, thoughtless world. By using the same tools that used to be called ``Madison Avenue,'' he risks the same corruption. McDermott makes a lot of images which are quickly gratifying, and highly disposable; very impacting and contained graphic statements that manipulate the viewer. In the end it is not inappropriate that they have a thick, glossy layer of plastic resin over them. It punctuates as well as preserves their sweet-bitter poetry.