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The Homer Simpson of AGNSW

While not normally a fan of the Simpsons, I stopped by AGNSW some weeks ago to view the new Kaldor collection and there I saw Homer. He was not, as you might suspect, a visitor muttering the well-known cliche ‘my six year old could paint that’, nor was he one of dozens of bus-bound seniors, devouring Sydney ‘cultcha’ en-mass before heading to the RSL for their $10 all-you-can-eat lunch. No. Homer was on display.

McGee, Untitled man with baseball cap. 2000. Photo: Carole Best

McGee, Untitled man with baseball cap. 2000. Photo: Carole Best

The work I’m referring to is Untitled man with baseball cap by Barry McGee. (Click here for a link to a better photo on the AGNSW site). The work is a composite one painted on 70 metal plates and depicts a tragic figure with less guffaw than our nightly Homer. As I stood looking up at him I was engulfed by the same appall and amused pity that Homer Simpson evokes in us. He, like Homer, would wear baggy Y-fronts and has something of the baboon about him; part imbecile and disturbingly, part you and I.

But this Homer of the Art Gallery has no name – he is ‘untitled’ and it occurred to me that never has an untitled work been so wretched and full of pathos – he is the figure of the displaced and superseded. He is lost and left behind. It touched in me that vein of mild panic bringing to mind workers in automotive factories, timber mills, canneries and a hundred other factories closing and shutting up shop, handing their livelihoods to others where things are done cheaper and more efficiently. With Homer here as the detritus.

Reminds me of the lyrics of Jackson Browne’s song For Everyman:

They’ve seen the end coming down long enough to believe
That they’ve heard their last warning
Standing alone
Each has his own ticket in his hand
And as the evening descends
I sit thinking ’bout everyman

Our Untitled man is a relic without worshipers. And for all the yawning dread and discomfort I felt, I can’t help think of the genius of the work.

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