David McDermott was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. He studied at Syracuse University, New York from 1970 to 1974. Peter McGough was born in 1958 in Syracuse, and studied at the same university in 1976. Their paths never crossed until they both moved to New York City some years later and started their artistic collaboration in 1980. Their photography involves appropriating images and objects from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, as well as projecting an image of themselves as gentlemen, posing as erudite, impertinent characters. During the 1980s, McDermott & McGough dressed, lived, and worked as artists and “men about town,” circa 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted a townhouse on Avenue C in New York City’s East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to its authentic mid-19th century ideal. “We were experimenting in time,” says McDermott, “trying to build an environment and a fantasy we could live and work in.”
Like their lifestyle, their photographs and paintings betoken a flat refusal to embrace the historical present. This obsession with the past is reflected in the subjects and styles they bring back to life, and in the precise fictional dates they give to their works. The personal dimension of their work makes it into a deliberately provocative and controversial contemporary artistic performance dealing with political and sociological issues.
McDermott & McGough’s work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions at such institutions as Frankfurter Kunstverein; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and others.