Feature by One & Other on ‘Myth America’ exhibition at According to McGee, York from 1 July to 7 August.
A Special Kind of Country: Myth America
Horace Panter, widely known as the bassist and co-founder of ska legends ‘The Specials’ returns to York contemporary art gallery According to McGee for a trio exhibition with York’s Mat Lazenby and Gary Brown.
The exhibition, ‘Myth America’, launches tonight with a private view, and gallery directors Greg and Ails McGee are excited. Says Greg, “I love Pop Art, and Horace does it very, very well. There’s a rebellious sense of mischief in all of his art, and a lot of that no doubt comes from his experiences as a bona fide rock star, but there’s an attention to detail and an artistic yearning also. Our first exhibition two years ago was more a generic celebration of Horace’s viewpoint on pop culture, but we really honed in on this one, and when we got together with Mat (Lazenby) and Gary (Brown), all the planets lined up.”
It was after a long lunch at York’s Pavement Vaults when Horace and his wife Clare Panter, the McGees, and creative business partners Mat Lazenby and Gary Brown distilled their group ideas into an irreducible concept which would run through the show. “We didn’t want it to be a mash up of 3 different artists”, says Ails, “But at the same time we didn’t want an intellectual event which had to be unpacked and pondered over. Pop Art is a blast of energy, and often I think too much concept can dilute a great contemporary exhibition. But when we hit upon ‘Myth America’, and all of the different viewpoints that it brings, we knew we had a winner.”
‘Myth America’ is a simple homage to a visual culture continues to permeate across the globe: Americana has always proved to be especially fertile inspiration for artists on this side of the Atlantic, and for Mat and Gary the exhibition is a chance for them to skewer long standing obsessions. Says Mat, “For me this exhibition brings together 3 very different and personal takes on American culture, in my case it is about how the visual language of a place becomes fetishised and slightly distorted on its long journey across the Atlantic.”
Gary is equally reverent: “American 1960s rare soul music has captivated me for the best part of twenty years, driving me to collect some of the scene’s rarest records. My work is a celebration of artists whose music founded one of the most endearing and longstanding underground subcultures this country has ever seen – Northern Soul.” Horace’s take on the subject matter seems to chime perfectly: “I’ve always been fascinated by America. It’s where my favourite music comes from, and most of my favourite art for that matter. The mythologies of the Wild West, the Blues bars of Chicago and the Gotham City of New York have been responsible in shaping my individual preferences.”
It is the slightly exaggerated consumption of Americana that provides the platform for ‘Myth America’. From their differing vantage points, the creative interests of Mat, Gary and Horace intersect. Mat and Gary were since childhood consuming pop culture whilst Horace Panter has been creating it. All three parties have a yearning for the aesthetics of American sub genres, and in that sense Myth America is a serendipitous show, indeed a crucial one, bearing in mind just how much of potential wake up call the reality of America might bring in the next few months.
“It’s not escapism,” laughs Greg, “Nor is it a political statement. It’s a great show of Pop Art in the North of England, from artists who are at the top of their game. York’s a fascinating city, but it always works better when its outward looking. And it’s always a real coup to have Horace Panter here. Important Pop Art is alive and kicking, and in very safe hands.”