This painting is one of a series referencing Homage to New York, Jean Tinguely’s 1960, self-destructing machine constructed in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art over a period of three weeks in March 1960. Set into motion for 27 minutes on March 17, 1960, the machine spasmed, shook, and burst into flames but failed to fully self-destruct, forcing firemen and museum guards to take action. Michael Landy’s fascination with Tinguely’s work dates back to the Tinguely retrospective at the Tate, London which he saw as an art student in 1982.
Over a two year period Landy worked on drawings in charcoal, oilstick, glue and ink based on research he conducted at the Museum Tinguely in Basel and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. All of these drawings display Landy’s meticulous draftsmanship but vary in their depiction of the 1960 event. In this painting, Landy renders minute details of Tinguely’s machine with linear clarity. Others from the series are less precise and serve to capture the explosive chaos of the machine’s break down. Landy’s black and white palette ties his drawings to the original black and white photographs and lends drama to the scenes portrayed.
Michael Landy was born in 1963 in London, where he continues to lives and work. His ambitious 2001 installation, Break Down was a systematic destruction of his possessions in a former department store in London. In 2004, he created Semi-Detached, a full scale model of front and back facades of his parents’ house, shown at Tate Britain. His work has been included in numerous group shows since 1989, including the 1997 Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy, London and Brilliant: New Art from Britain at the Walker Art Center in 1995.