Born in Lander, Wyoming in 1956, Roy McMakin is a Seattle-based artist, designer, furniture maker, and architect. His work seeks to bridge the space between art and design.
Roy McMakin received his MFA from the University of California, San Diego in 1982. Faculty members Allan Kaprow and Manny Farber were important early influences. Indeed, McMakin exhibits many of what Farber famously described as “termite art tendencies,” in which the artist approaches a subject and gnaws at it over time and from the margins. To this day, McMakin’s termite approach continues to allow him to negotiate the slippery terrain between art and function by pulling art into the everyday, rather than pushing the everyday onto a pedestal.
Much of the artist’s work crosses a threshold between utility and contemplation, meaning and anonymity. McMakin writes, “I have always seen functionality as a tool I use to both understand and point out my fascination and relationship to objects, and to language. Call something a table, and you put your keys on it, and something happens. It’s profoundly transformative.”
Many of McMakin’s recent sculptures are inspired by or incorporate found, vernacular furniture. The artist reworks these objects of American domesticity, making changes in scale and material to subvert how they are traditionally received. The sculptures, which are always meticulously produced, explore at what point an object can no longer be considered “useful.” As Michael Darling writes in his introduction to the catalogue accompanying McMakin’s 2003 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “If it’s built like a table and looks like a table but doesn’t exactly work like a table, can it still be a table?”
Since 1980, McMakin has had over thirty solo-exhibitions. Notable galleries and institutions include: Quint Gallery (1986, 1987, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2013, San Diego), Marc Foxx (1997, 2000, Los Angeles), Henry Art Gallery (1997, Seattle), Seattle Art Museum (1999), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2003), and Matthew Marks Gallery (2005, 2008, New York). The artist lives and works in San Diego.
McMakin’s work is featured in the collections of major museums around the country, such as: the Hammer Museum of Art, University of California, Los Angeles; the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Museum of Modern Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro.