First of all, McMakin is a highly established artist who is the subject of a quite good book that came out in April and would make a dee-lightful holiday gift. The book's big and beautiful, with great background essays by Michael Ned Holte, former SAM curator Michael Darling, and artist John Baldessari (an avid McMakin collector), and it contains about a thousand color plates of his works—furniture, architecture, installations, sculptures, paintings, and things that mix up those categories. In the book, McMakin also writes his own blurb, which is restrained, but nods to the mass of emotion I've always suspected is beneath the surface of this artist:
I have always been attracted to simple, minimal, reductive objects as well as charming, decorated objects. Imagine a perfectly proportioned undecorated clear juice glass and a similar one with a decorative pattern or little daisies silk-screened on it. In reading a book on the decorative nature of Islamic art, the falseness of the dilemma became clear. My very personal read on the thesis contained within this book is that we are constantly bumping up against the obvious: things have to look like something. We cannot make invisible objects, but we can make them look like love.
A few months ago when I bumped into McMakin at a gathering, he mentioned he'd been having a Shakespearean year. He did not elaborate. But I wonder how much of that entered into his new work, which is identifiably McMakinian, but also shows cracks and wrinkles and breaks more than his work usually does. The tables are assembled as if they were whole, then atomized, then reconnected tightly but with new oddities introduced—a gap here or some extra feet there.
They're a peach-brown fleshy color, and they're healthfully plump, but unlike most of his past cushiony chairs, these are neither pristine nor humorous (I love this wingback-with-its-own-ass)—not really. Their color, after you spend some time with it, is a little dismaying. Their seams are noticeably puckered. With wrongly sized cushions, they invite you to sit down, but make it look like it wouldn't quite work out. Each one looks like it would end up lonely even with you in it, and in a group, they are arranged facing various directions, even more lonely together. They still look dignified; that is McMakin's hallmark. But they also seem to be stand-ins for the artist in a less contented way.