Drawing on a range of aesthetic references, such as surveillance technology and Beaux-Arts architecture, Monaghan presents an unsettling vision of reality.
The titular work, Disco Beast, is a seamlessly looped eighteen minute video installation following a unicorn through abandoned, opulent consumer environments rendered meticulously by the artist using 3D computer animation techniques. These barren, glossy landscapes evoke a hyper-capitalist dystopia, fashioned in reaction to the unchecked optimism of Silicon Valley and the corporate techno-sphere. In the video’s climax, an omnipotent cell phone charging station captures the unicorn. Its lifeless body resurrects in a Starbucks bathroom where the film began, restarting an inescapable cycle.
This dystopian tone also characterizes Police State Condo, a series of sculptural print works. Security cameras, TSA checkpoints, and ATM machines blend with designer fabrics and penthouse views to create ominous vignettes reminiscent of advertisements for high-end apartments. For Monaghan, who grew up in Queens, this series is a response to the rampant luxury development in New York.
Though the work alludes to a critique of material-driven lifestyles, it celebrates materiality in its demonstration of the artist’s devotion to craft in a variety of media. Monaghan painstakingly designs the lighting and architectures in his video and print work to hyper-realistically mimic lavish textures, which also can be seen in his sculpture. The leather-like surface of the Unicorn In Bondage was carved from marble using robotic milling techniques, and hand finished by the artist at the foot of a quarry in Italy.
The works in Disco Beast allude to an unrealized, sinister reality behind the alluring surfaces of technology and consumerism. Monaghan offers little hope for an escape as the symbol-laden environments eludes discernible meaning, leaving the viewer to cope only with impenetrable glistening veneers.