Paul McCarthy. (Reviews: New York)

By Augikos, Jan | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Paul McCarthy. (Reviews: New York)


Augikos, Jan, Artforum International


LUHRING AUGUSTINE GALLERY

In "Clean Thoughts," an exhibition of new sculptures (plus one vintage work, Chair with butt plug, 1978), Paul McCarthy assembled a motley crew of characters borrowed from sugar-pop domains that stretch from Hollywood movies and Saturday morning cartoons to Christmas culture and Jeff Koons's sculpture. Shit Face and Dick Eye (both 2002), a couple of mutilated pirate busts cast in black and red silicon rubber, stood guard at the gallery entrance. Together with their sky blue mate, Pot Head, and a drab brown Jack P. (both 2002), they are the most recent additions to McCarthy's expanding troupe of maladroit freaks. The cleancast faces of these butt-ugly buccaneers arrested viewers with spaghetti junctions of gashes, gouges, and withered wounds where dismembered male genitalia sprouted from empty eye sockets or turds tumbled from a gaping maw. While they were in a soft clay state, McCarthy whacked two of the pirate busts with a sword, adding to their lurid disarray.

The pirates joined a relative newcomer to McCarthy's fold, Michael Jackson, who appeared in a number of works based on Koons's 1988 ceramic sculpture, Michael Jackson and Bubbles--in which the Peter Pan of Pop wears a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket and lounges with his sidekick chimp. Michael Jackson Red 2002, is a photograph of McCarthy's mutant 1999 version of Koons's sculpture, in which McCarthy enlarged the figures' heads, hands, and feet. Three showstopping floor pieces featuring abstracted pairs of figures seated atop casts of packing crates were consistent with the gestures and poses of Jackson sheltering his "Mini-Me" simian in the photograph. With gigantic blocky masses for heads that look unstable in proportion to their damaged bodies--forever monstrous and mute--they were the perfect doppelgangers for a distressed father-and-son duo. The dice are always loaded for the patriarchal pairs who populate McCarthy's work and who evince a strained camaraderie in which simmering brutality is s ublimated as melodramatic kitsch. …

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