Malcolm McLaren: Shallow 1-21

October 24, 2009 - January 3, 2010

Morris Gallery, Historic Landmark Building


Video on DVD, 86 minutes.  Lent by Brook and Pam Smith

A pop cultural icon for over thirty years, Malcolm McLaren is a visionary artist.  Always at the forefront of culture and pushing boundaries, he is probably best recognized for his work in melding fashion with music. 
Shallow 1-21, an 86-minute video, consists of 21 “musical paintings” that combine musical cut-ups and short clips appropriated from old sex films into a hypnotically layered, and provocative work.  PAFA is proud to exhibit Shallow 1-21 in its entirety for the first time in North America.
“I considered making portraits of people about to have sex,” explains McLaren, “This as it turned out, involved trawling through and selecting scenes from hundreds of old and often obscure amateur sex movies: 8-mm films of ordinary folk who played a part in sex films before sex cinema turned into the industry as we know it today. I slowed down most of the images until sometimes they almost stood still, revealing, through their age, a certain painterly quality.”
McLaren continues, “I made 21 musical works from a grab bag of pop culture’s debris of the past 50 years. In linking these musical cut-ups to the face of those sexual encounters, I can’t say what happens is what happened. The alchemy made possible another meaning far deeper than what existed before. I began to call these works the musical end of painting because they are not films or videos but another form entirely; a map of feelings that navigates the look of music and the sound of fashion.”
Born in London in 1946, Malcolm McLaren was educated at art schools in England. In 1971, with his then partner, Vivienne Westwood, he opened the legendary Let It Rock shop in London, creating fashion that would dress the Punk Generation and inspire legions of fashion designers. In the mid-1970s, McLaren founded, managed and art directed the iconic Punk band, the Sex Pistols. He then went on to work with such artists as Boy George, Adam Ant, and Bow Wow Wow, before becoming a recording artist in his own right. In the 1980s and 90s, McLaren’s solo albums, Duck Rock, Fans, Waltz Darling, and Paris were major musical breakthroughs exploring Hip Hop, Opera, R&B, and Lounge Music, among other genres. In 1985, McLaren went to Hollywood where he worked as a development executive for Columbia Pictures and Steven Spielberg. He lives and works in New York and Paris and has been writing music, producing films, writing “radio movies,” and giving live performances.

Julien Robson, Curator of Contemporary Art

Mr. and Mrs. Brook T. Smith
Mr. Timothy Patric Speiss

Click here to watch an interview with Malcolm McLaren on the making of 'Shallow 1-21'.

Click here for a feature story on Malcolm McLaren's life and work in The Times, London.