In the fall of 1978, Peter McGough, who was raised in Syracuse in a big Catholic family, moved to Manhattan to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Of more interest to him than school was the Chelsea Hotel, Studio 54 and, fatefully, David McDermott, or McD, as the author refers to him throughout much of I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going: The Art Scene and Downtown New York in the 1980s, his absorbing if occasionally omissive memoir of their decades-spanning (and ongoing) partnership.
After McGough moves in with McD in 1980, they dedicate their lives to McD's conviction that the past outclasses the present. (McGough lifts his book's title from a typical McD proclamation.) They haunt the pre-gentrified East Village wearing frock coats and shirts with detachable collars. They install antique fixtures and furniture in every property they proceed to rent or own. As McDermott & McGough, they co-create paintings and photographs that incorporate their aesthetic, and their work sells well until the art market collapses in the early 1990s.
When the partners are at loggerheads, as when McD's spending outpaces their earnings, McGough generally loses the match; the caption "Saying no to McD meant overturned tables and smashed mirrors, among other things" accompanies one of the book's reproductions of the artists' figurative autobiographical work. But if memoirs were written by and about people with impeccable judgment and behavior, they wouldn't captivate, and I've Seen the Future and I'm Not Going is like life with McD: never dull. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer