Magazine article Artforum International

Paul McCarthy

Magazine article Artforum International

Paul McCarthy

Article excerpt

In 1968, Paul McCarthy built a hollow, galvanized steel structure shaped like the letter H and laid on its back. He titled it Dead H (the H standing for human), making additional versions in the years that followed--notably, Dead H Crawl, 1999, inside of which he imagined moving human bodies. In The Couch, a little-known video from 1973, we watch the artist force his body through a sofa feetfirst, only to emerge out the backside in a kind of birthing episode. And for the lifelike sculpture Dreaming, 2005, McCarthy produced a to-scale silicone model of his own pantless self reclining on a lawn chair. While only a fragment of a prolific career, this disjointed lineage offers a key to accessing the artist's most recent sculptures, three of which were on view at L&M Arts for the inaugural show of its new LA branch, and which similarly take up the problem of self-figuration in both process and form.

Take, for example, Train Mechanical, 2003-10, in which two fleshy, animatronic caricatures of George W. Bush fuck silicone pigs in synchronized motion. The figures are stationed one behind the other on a stage-type plinth rigged with exposed electronics; their heads, outfitted with motion-sensor eyes, are capable of spinning 360 degrees, such that any moving object entering the space is detected and followed. A succinct representation of the abuse of power, the work delivers its political message loud and clear. In fact McCarthy modeled these stout copulating patriarchs on his own physique. In other words, he again physically inserted his body into a sculpture, in this case implicating himself as a subject of its blunt content even while orchestrating robotic doubles to perform in his place.

From his long-held fixation on figures (and figuring the body to various ends), the artist arrives at the figurine, namely the Hummel, those German kitsch ceramics that depict saccharine boys and girls sporting traditional Alpine garb and posed in various scenarios tinged with Aryan romanticism. …

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