When Macaulay Culkin was 8 years old, two years before he starred as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, he watched the film Big, in which a precocious boy named Josh wishes he were taller. The next morning, Josh wakes up in Tom Hanks’ 30-year-old husk, and is immediately ushered into a world of rent checks, promotions, and sex. Big and Home Alone both exist in a fantasy world where the innocence of youth is tested, but proves resilient, when prematurely faced with the scary realities of adulthood. It’s an apt allegory for Macaulay Culkin, who became a millionaire at 10, retired from acting (for the first time) at 14, was estranged from his father at 16, married at 17, and divorced at 20.
Culkin, now 32, has what he refers to as “Big Syndrome,” a forever-young playfulness that calls to mind Everlasting Gobstoppers, the Lost Boys, and Neverland Ranch. It’s why he recently transformed the living room of his 5,100-square-foot downtown Manhattan apartment into a playground workspace where he creates art with the other two members of 3MB Collective, Adam Green and Toby Goodshank, both former members of the Moldy Peaches. “After seeing Big,” says Culkin, “I wanted a loft space with an elevator that opened directly into my apartment, just like Tom Hanks did”—and now he does, only his has a fleshy, oversized dildo glued to its door.
It’s a few weeks before Halloween, and the former child star is dressed head-to-toe, and without explanation, in a costume-shop pastiche dedicated to the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain: white Jackie O sunglasses, the red-and black striped wool sweater made famous by Freddy Krueger, a blond “grunge” wig, and his own kneetorn, paint-splattered jeans. (For the actual holiday, he will throw a party at his place called “Hoganoween,” where only those outfitted like the less-incredible Hulk will be allowed in.) Drinking a can of Red Bull, he smokes cigarette after cigarette, discarding them in one of the many ashtrays scattered across his expansive home.
Nirvana songs float from Culkin’s laptop. Green and Goodshank, also done up as the tortured rock star, pore over images of a Japanese woman with a bagelhead, the latest temporary “ModCon” procedure that has doctors injecting 400 cc’s of saline into their patients’ foreheads to create the illusion of a bagel having sprung from their heads like a yeasty Athena. The room is littered with junk. Photos of JonBenét Ramsey and Jean Reno from The Professional share space with 40-ounce alcohol bottles of varying fullness, illuminated strings of red Christmas lights, mounds of faded and grease-stained delivery receipts, Mandy Moore’s Coverage CD, and a hardcover copy of Julia Child’s autobiography, My Life In France. With the exception of a few larger canvases resting against the space’s tall, white walls—and a smaller text painting that reads, appropriately, “Courtney Love follows me on Twitter”—the place feels conspicuously devoid of actual art. That’s because most of the group’s shared creations are currently on display at (Le) Poisson Rouge, a bar and gallery space in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Entitled “Leisure Inferno,” 3MB’s debut show—the trio’s name is a nod to another iconic ’80s film, Three Men and a Baby—is comprised of brightly colored paintings that incorporate and skewer a buffet of ’90s cultural references: the cast of Seinfeld standing nude on the Wheel of Fortune; Korn’s lead singer, Jonathan Davis, playing to a surreal crowd that includes E.T. and Wally from the Where’s Waldo series; and Kurt Cobain himself, rendered as a character from the 1995 film Hackers. “We tried to hit this generation in their sweet spot,” Culkin says. “We took a lot of things from our own youths, from 5 to 25 years old. It’s almost self-referential in that we’re referencing ourselves when we’re referencing Hackers. It’s essentially a box within a box.” Green, who has since changed into his own clothes—a British military jacket from the Revolutionary War—adds, “Drawing things that are half-remembered gives you the opportunity to draw a self-portrait inside of the thing. When I draw Garfield, I’m drawing myself.” Culkin nods in violent agreement. “That’s because you’re drawing your Garfield.”