Purple Magazine
— S/S 2010 issue 13

Paul McCarthy

Dopwhite, charcoal, oil stick, collage on paper, 96 x 79 inches, 2009. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Dwarf House, pencil and collage on paper 80 x 97 inches, 2009 Tr.bal.#21, collage, paint, oil stick on canvas and paper, 135 x 123 inches, 2009 Ginger Then, charcoal, oil stick, collage on paper, 103 x 80 inches, 2009 Inside The Dwarfs House, pencil on paper, 21 x 25 1/2 inches, 25 1/2 x 29 5/8 x 1 3/8 inches (framed), 2009 Shit Pie, 
charcoal, oil stick, collage on paper, 103 x 121 inches, 2009

collages by PAUL MCCARTHY
text by JEFF RIAN

PAUL MCCARTHY, the multimedia painter, filmmaker, and performance artist, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1945. He is a long-time Los Angeles resident and a professor of art at UCLA. He makes what could be described as transgressive children’s art, often using his own body in his work. In Class Fool (1976), he covered a classroom with ketchup, threw himself around it to the point of injury, and then rammed a Barbie doll into his exposed anus — ending the performance by grossing out the audience: testing everyone’s limits, mostly his own. McCarthy often mixes everyday Freudian-type social complexities with fairy-tale characters. In his recent show of very intense but compellingly beautiful collage drawings at Hauser & Wirth in New York City (4 November – 24 December, 2009), McCarthy roughed up that girly archetype, Snow White.

McCarthy casts swine before pearls, or raunchiness before sweet sentimentality. He combines delicate but pornographic renderings of Snow White images taken straight from Disney, presenting a rude sort of “scatter art” of painting, drawing, and collaged images, on paper that is itself sometimes distressed. The title of the series, White Snow, reaches far down memory’s pipeline to Frank Zappa’s song, “Don’t Eat Yellow Snow,” possibly a musical memory for a visual artist like McCarthy. His style is more aggressive and controlled than the scatter art of artists like Karen Kilimnik. It’s also less symbolically heavy than The Viennese Actionists’ melancholy mix of Catholic blood and sect-like Socialism. With his trademark triple-X renderings of images adults make for children, McCarthy seems to be warning us against Freudian theater. Which is to say that while McCarthy’s works may not be made for the family, they certainly are about some families, particularly dysfunctional and maniacally controlling ones.

One might try to calculate the number of porn actresses who hail from the same Mormon country McCarthy does, and then reconsider his art in terms of the nasty type of freedom these fragile actresses choose over the lives they leave behind. McCarthy’s lurid readings of fairy tales are like Lenny Bruce reinterpretations of the classic Dick and Jane children’s books — books that were read to boomers like McCarthy as kids: Come Dick, come. Oh, Oh, Oh. See Dick come. See Jane come. Oh, oh, oh.

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S/S 2010 issue 13

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