September 11–November 21, 2015
Numbers are funny. For some reason I always liked the number 44 and made a playful artwork with it while in college. Later, I had other reasons for feeling it was special.
The number 108 is like that too. It is hands down the most sacred number in Hinduism, the numerical equivalent of holiness. It also appears in Buddhism, certain Native American traditions, Jainism and Jewish numerology. In India today, 108 is the number used for emergency response, the equivalent of 911 in the U.S.
On September 11th 1893, a young Indian man named Vivekenanda addressed the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago and delivered a warmly received address on interfaith tolerance. Vivekenanda was sent to the west by his guru the great Ramakrishna of Calcutta, illiterate child of the fearsome Goddess Kali. I was surprised to learn that one can easily find a very clear recording of the speech that Vivekenanda delivered, online. This was apparently the first major presentation of Indian philosophy in the New World.
108 years to the day after such an event as the introduction of Eastern philosophy into the American mindfield, one might expect a great blessing to manifest. I am in the minority who believes such a thing may have happened on that sunny Tuesday morning in 2001.
As if to confirm my hunch, I later learned that Neem Karoli Baba chose the date for his own conscious death. He was famously given LSD by Tim Leary’s fellow Harvard professor Richard Alpert and remained completely unaffected after taking a double or triple dose of it. As a result of meeting Neem Karoli Baba, Alpert changed his name to Ram Dass and wrote Be Here Now, a spiritual clarion call to the Sixties generation. Some enlightened souls have the ability to choose the time when their essence will leave the body. In the case of Neem Karoli Baba, he told his students he was leaving and went into mahasamadhi (big blissout) on September 11, 1973.
It may be that something far worse by all rights should have happened on that day in 2001, but didn’t. It may also be true that something very important was carried out in a nearby dimension and appeared in ours as a sort of dumbshow. In this scenario, president number 44 may be none other than the savior reincarnated as a very patient person.
—Paul McMahon, Woodstock, NY, 2015
321 Gallery is pleased to present 44, a solo exhibition featuring 44 works by Paul McMahon, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Brooklyn, New York. A new artist's book featuring works on paper by McMahon and text by Anthony Haden-Guest will accompany the show.
The objects in this exhibition were created over a 44 year period, from 1971 through to the present, and include painting, sculpture, video, musical recordings, and works on paper. In the early 1970s, McMahon began organizing exhibitions, parties, and rock shows in Cambridge, MA and New York City, playing a vital role in bringing together artists in the post-Conceptual and pre-Pictures generation. During the 1970s, McMahon created a diverse body of work addressing corruption in government, the art world, and pictures themselves. In later decades, he continued producing work as live performances and video, satirizing politicians and the advertising world, often from a shamanic orientation.
Paul McMahon (b. 1950, San Diego, CA) is a musician, artist, writer, producer, curator, minister, and part-time mailman. From 1972-75, he organized over 30 conceptual and performance art shows at Project Inc., his independently run temporary art space in Cambridge, MA. He has played in bands such as Daily Life and A Band, performed parodic routines in shows such as I’m With Stupid at the Kitchen (1977), and duelled one-liner jokes dressed as a giant potato on national TV against Soupy Sales. McMahon’s work has been shown in select group and solo exhibitions including The White Room at White Columns (NYC, 1987); The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984 curated by Douglas Eklund at the Metropolitan Museum (NYC, 2009); All Suffering Soon To End! at Callicoon Fine Arts Gallery (Callicoon, NY, 2009); Stairway to Heaven at Susan Inglett Gallery (NYC, 2010); and Made in Rosendale at Roos Arts (Rosendale, NY, 2011). McMahon has released ten albums of original music, published two books of humor, and performed as the Rock’n’Roll Therapist since 1980. He received a fellowship in New Genres from the National Endowment for the arts in 1990 and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard acquired the Project Inc. archive in 2010. McMahon graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Pomona College in 1972 and received an MS in Art Education from Mass. College of Art in 1975. He had a Kundalini rising experience in 1988, and in 1993 the Goddess spoke inside his head and told him that he is King of the Universe. He is the proprietor of the Mothership, an everything center in Woodstock, NY, where he lives and works with his twin girls.
Anthony Haden-Guest is a British writer, reporter, cartoonist and performer. He was born in 1937 in Paris, grew up in London and lives in New York. His books include True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World, The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night, and two books of cartoons and rhymes, The Chronicles of Now and In The Mean Time.
As part of his solo exhibition 44 at 321 Gallery, artist Paul McMahon will be playing a series of folk songs in the gallery space on Thursday, October 22, beginning at 8pm. Artist Linda Montano will be present as well, performing an endurance piece in which she dresses up as and lip-syncs along to Paul McMahon's songs.
Linda Mary Montano (b. 1942, Saugerties, NY) is a seminal figure in contemporary feminist performance art and her work since the mid 1960s has been critical in the development of video by, for, and about women. Attempting to dissolve the boundaries between art and life, Montano continues to actively explore her art/life through shared experience, role adoption, and intricate life altering ceremonies, some of which last for seven or more years. Her artwork is starkly autobiographical and often concerned with personal and spiritual transformation. Notable performances include Handcuff (1973 with Tom Marioni) where she was physically tied to other artists; Three Day Blindfold (1974), a piece in which Montano navigated her surroundings while blindfolded for three days; and a performance piece in which Montano and artist Tehching Hsieh were bound to each other by a length of rope 24 hours a day for a whole year (from July 4, 1983 to July 3, 1984); Montano’s work has been featured at museums including The New Museum in New York, MOCA San Francisco, and the ICA in London.