Paul McCarthy Black and White Tapes 1970-75
Painter, 1995. Video
McCarthy Videos - Be Warned
McCarthy's work is heavily influenced by Viennese Actionism, seeking to break the limitations of painting by using the body as a paintbrush or even canvas; later, he incorporated bodily fluids or food into his works. In a 1974 video, Painting, Wall Whip, he painted with his head and face, "smearing his body with paint and then with ketchup, mayonnaise or raw meat and, in one case, feces." His work evolved from pushing painting to the limit, using the body as canvas and as paintbrush, and eventually substituting bodily fluids or food for paint and then moving on to psychosexual events that fly in the face of social convention, testing the emotional limits of both artist and viewer. An example of this is his 1976 piece Class Fool, where McCarthy threw himself around a ketchup spattered UCSD classroom until dazed and injured. He then vomited several times and inserted a Barbie doll into his rectum. The piece ended when the audience could no longer stand to watch his performance. McCarthy's work in the 1990s, such as Painter (1995), often seeks to undermine the idea of "the myth of artistic greatness" and attacks the perception of the heroic male artist.
The Garden. 1992. Installation
Collection Jeffrey Deitch, New York, NY
"These shows reveal—in at times excruciatingly nauseating depth—an artist who has to be considered and learned from, if not exactly embraced. McCarthy's art is hardcore and hard to take. It's bitter, monotonous, histrionic, and juvenile. His stories have no moral, his performances barely any structure. There's little variety or nuance to his art, and his babbling, nincompoop characters are often psychos. In many ways, all his performances are one performance, and this ur-performance can feel limited, hammy, and vicious. Still, McCarthy's art has a lot to give. Although his expressionism feels dated in these cleaner, more cosmopolitan times, he's proof there's a dark side to modernism. A sort of amalgamated reincarnation of Egon Schiele, George Grosz, Ed Kienholz, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, he's a corrective to art history's fondness for—in Celine's acerbic words—"shitless epics." McCarthy's art is nothing if not full of shit."
by Jerry Saltz
Q. Back in the day a ton of interesting artists were doing performances. Now that energy seems to be directed toward video and film. Artists acting up for the camera. Where has performance gone? Why aren't people working with the live, high-risk moment? Why do the majority of artists insist on being mediated? Why the distance and safety, why behave on a big installation screen, or a monitor on the floor or a pedestal? I know it's hard on a performer (physically draining) but that used to be the appeal, the rush, which is why all actors want to perform in plays, the venue of the real. It's odd to see a whole form almost disappear. There used to be performance magazines and regular venues at museums and galleries for performance. Not too long ago theater and performance were blurring; it was a fertile time.
A. When I perform for the camera there are others standing on the sidelines in the void. It's very Hollywood to stand and watch a movie being made. I am planning a performance in a theater in Berlin this year at Christmastime. I don't know yet whether it will be on the stage or not. I think I would like to use the entire theater as a performance room, the theater as a set. Maybe I will extend the stage out into the audience, reduce the seating. I am interested in blurring our positions. I've always been interested in the audience being a prop. Paul McCarthy
Piccadilly Circus, 2003. Performance, foto, videoprojektioner
(En tilsølet dronningemoder, der slås)
Foto: Jan Madsen