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Looking back at Paul McCarthy

April 15, 2020 Blog
Paul McCarthy, Self-Portrait, 1963. Ink on paper.

Paul McCarthy, Self-Portrait, 1963. Ink on paper. 11 × 8 1/2 in. (27.9 × 21.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. © Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy’s gargantuan and bizarre art has gained notoriety for the big projects ever since the 1993 Helter Skelter show at Moca.  His breakthrough tableau The Garden was made of an animatronic man thrusting into a tree while another lay bare bottom up in a film set of a forest. Decades later, he motorized George W. Bush sodomizing a pig. View Article (pdf) Then in 2014 there was the monumental green butt plug/Christmas tree sculpture inciting outrage in a Paris. And White Snow, an installation that occupied most of the Park Avenue Armory in New York. View Article (pdf)

Anal sex, dismembered bodies, McCarthy’s bloody performances and video and sculpture affront even the most hardened of art viewers and I’ve been writing about it, aghast and fascinated, from  his performances in downtown L.A. in the ’80s to his big 2001 survey at Moca and beyond. View Article

So why stop now? Paul McCarthy: Headspace, Drawings 1963-2019, the latest McCarthy show, is a huge survey of preparatory studies, photographs, maquettes, videos and works on paper organized by Aram Moshayedi and Connie Butler at the Hammer. It provides an opportunity to get a more nuanced and detailed impression of the artist’s chaotic delve into the subconscious.

Of course, the show can’t be seen now due to Covid-19 concerns but Thursday, April 16, at 5 p.m., Hammer Members can see a special online discussion of the exhibition Paul McCarthy: Head Space, Drawings 1963–2019. It may reopen before closing date of May 10.


Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp writes about modern and contemporary art, architecture and design.