DEPART Foundation presents Michael Pybus: Peak Human, its first exhibition of works by the London-based mixed-media artist. A satirical blurring of boundaries and hierarchical relationships, Peak Human is a playful admixture of high and low. Hijacking the visual language of commercial consumption, Hollywood stargazing, and popular entertainment franchises, Pybus irreverently dissolves the graded divisions between the little known and the branded, the world of design and that of mass consumption, with the rarified vernaculars of fine art.
Peak Human includes a series of large-scale, collage paintings in which Pybus appropriates imagery from iconic sources. Recognizable are references to artworks by the likes of Warhol and Hokusai, Nintendo video game characters, Pokémon, and graphics from commercial design. Pybus creates amalgams of readily familiar brands in a commentary on the indiscriminate power of branding, while also referring to his cooptation of this fame. The freedom with which Pybus borrows objects, images, and references, captures varying forms of desire, whether it be the covetous satisfaction of consuming through retail, aspirational fantasies, or the familiar din of popular culture.
The exhibition also includes an installation component in the form of an IKEA living room showroom set up which provides the viewing environment for his new video piece Growing Vegetables.
Pybus also premieres a series of reinterpreted red-carpet couture dresses, recalling three celebrities – Elizabeth Taylor, Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence – at the height of their fame as Academy Award winners. Made in collaboration with his fashion designer sister Joanna Pybus, these garments replicate the design and proportions of the originals but are refashioned in loud, bombastic collage prints featuring many of the characters and artworks he samples in his paintings. Through this annexed gesture, Pybus stakes his claim on the generative myths of status and celebrity, past, and present.