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The Pictures Generation - Unexpected Acclaim for Local Mail Carrier

By Susan Barnett


Hudson Valley, NY –

Sometimes your past comes back to haunt you. But sometimes your past brings accolades you never imagined. That's what's happening to a mail carrier in New York's Catskills, who's now got work he did thirty years ago hanging in an exhibit at tehe Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hudson Valley bureau chief Susan Barnett reports.

Paul McMahon is a mail carrier in Woodstock. That's how he supports himself and his twin daughters. But he's also a musician and an inventor. He has a side income designing tongue in cheek welcome to woodstock bumper stickers. But when he was younger, he was an artist.

His exhibit is called The Pictures Generation: 1974 to 1984. McMahon and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this week so he could show me around before the exhibit closes Monday.

Rebecca Philips is with the Met department of photographs and she escorted us to the exhibit. McMahon's work is scattered around the four room display, with one wall devoted just to his newspaper art. It's a massive, sterile, white space with movies playing in some rooms, lights flashing, TVs displaying strange edits of the old Hollywood Squares show.

McMahon stops to watch a movie of a group of men trying to break through lines...he can't remember if he was in it or not. But these were people he worked with, whose work he displayed, who partied with him in his loft and whose work he saw developed. But he gave up art in the early 80s to be a musician.

McMahon and I look at one of his pieces...it's a newspaper ad for aqueduct race track...but he's colored over the horse in the ad with blue so there's just a shadow of the horse left.

A few steps from McMahon's work is work by Matt Mullikan, the only artist in the group that McMahon says still calls himself a conceptual artist - stick figures captioned with existential questions, a photo juxtaposing a dolls head and corpse's face, and a long list tracing the life of a fictional woman.

McMahon's exhibit is The Picture Generation: 1974 to 1984. It runs through this weekend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.