Studio Visit

Artists Who Dissect 'Starsky & Hutch'

Kevin and Jennifer McCoy have won worldwide attention for installations such as
Kevin and Jennifer McCoy have won worldwide attention for installations such as "Scary Things" and "Special Things," which she describes as "a little bit disarming and a little bit goofy." (By Carlos Puma For The Washington Post)

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By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 8, 2006

NEW YORK One in an occasional series

Kevin and Jennifer McCoy have been together since 1990. They've been making art in tandem for almost as long -- ambitious electronic work that draws equally on pop culture and film theory and that combines custom computer programming and crude modelmaking.

They appeal to all kinds of tastes: For about five years now, their art has been bought and shown at major venues around the world, from the august Museum of Modern Art in New York to dedicated new-media galleries in Germany.

It has won them a Rave Award from the techno-hipsters at Wired magazine, but also sober articles in Artforum and Art in America. There's simply nothing else quite like the work they do, and that must help account for their success.

But it's hard to resist a niggling feeling that their coupledom could also play a role. They're one of several husband-and-wife teams who've made a splash in recent years, and you wonder if a cuteness factor might not be at work in their careers.

So, visiting the McCoys' studio -- an old cold-storage room perched behind their rehabbed Brooklyn row house -- it's a relief to discover that they're not a wedding-cake couple. That their two minds don't think as one. That they don't finish each other's sentences. That, for all the affection and mutual respect on view, they're about as likely to correct or probe each other's words as nod in agreement.

"You'd be screwed if conceptual art hadn't happened," says Jennifer, pointing out her partner's lack of traditional artistic skills. To which Kevin responds: "Am I not screwed? Have I dodged that bullet yet? I don't know."

Kevin, who is 39, is in torn jeans, a plain black T-shirt and scuffed black running shoes. He has long, unruly locks and a mustache that crawls, sluglike, down the sides of his chin. He could pass for a stoner selling used guitars.

His wife, 38, is notably more tidy. She sits near him wearing fresh khakis, a flowery green vest over a clean white shirt (untucked, because she's pregnant with their second child ) and sparkly little flats. Her straight hair is cut at girlish shoulder length.

The contrast seems to feed into their art.

Last month they opened their first Los Angeles show, at a gallery called Fringe Exhibitions. It featured two new, contrasting installations, "Special Things" and "Scary Things."

For the "Special" part, 16 quirky little dioramas, barely the size of cigar boxes, hang from the ceiling of a cheerily lit room. They're attached to 16 tiny security cameras that transmit live video of the models to a nearby screen. Each model consists of a little patch of plastic scenery with letters perched in its foreground, like a 3-D version of a page from a toddler's reader. "Animals," say the letters in front of a pasture with a pair of sheep; "feel," reads a diorama of a child petting a lamb.


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