Paul McCarthy: Uncanny Sculptures


thru June 1:

Paul McCarthy: Sculptures

Hauser & Wirth, 511 W 18th St., NYC

massive black walnut wood sculptures depicting McCarthy’s versions of characters drawn from the famous 19th century German folk tale Schneewittchen (Snow White) and his caricatures of modern interpretations of the story, including those in Disney’s beloved 1937 animated classic film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.

If you’re in NYC, don’t miss this show!




Paul McCarthy Gives a Tour of His Bacchanalian “Snow White” Bonanza

By Rachel Corbett

May 16, 2013

Paul McCarthy Gives a Tour of His Bacchanalian "Snow White" Bonanza

Paul McCarthy’s “White Snow (Bookends),” 2013, at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea

It’s safe to say that, at 67, Paul McCarthy has been recognized well beyond his role as the art world’s orphan sculptor of the abject. As you may have heard, the artist has just mounted exhibitions at both of New York’s Hauser & Wirth galleries, installed outdoor sculptures at Frieze New York and the Hudson River Park, and, next month, plans to debut two more interpretations of his favorite German fairy tale, Snow White, in Chelsea and at the Park Avenue Armory. On a recent morning, McCarthy took some time out from this busy installation schedule to discuss his latest bodies of work.

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“I’ve always loved monochromes,” said McCarthy of the nine lumpy brown canvases on view at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea. Of course, his versions offer a scatalogical spin on the classic color scheme, their textured surfaces formed from the foam “droppings” left behind during the construction of artificial trees. Those trees are now headed to the Park Avenue Armory for the installation White Snow, opening June 19.

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The four perfectly cast silicone nudes at the Upper East Side Hauser & Wirth exhibition are suffused with a little too much humanity to actually be beautiful. But beauty is rarely McCarthy’s goal. Instead, the series is an exercise in representation, a test of what scientific expressions of the body can teach us about seeing. “What will happen to the human body in the next 50 years?” McCarthy wondered. “They can grow tissue now, within a period of time they’ll grow a face. There is a layer of sculpting that’s the growing of human tissue.”

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Upstairs, a four-channel video documents the molding process. McCarthy said he has waited to realize the “Life Cast” series for more than a decade, in part because he hadn’t found the right model. “$10,000 will buy you anything. The world is full of people who would do it, but I was looking for someone who understood it,” he said of model Elyse Poppers. “Same with finding the person to make it, you’re not just looking for another fucking technician. You’re going deeper. I’m not making a sex doll.”

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Slight variations to the female nudes’ positions suggest movement—and reference McCarthy’s longstanding interest in performance—but McCarthy arrests all signs of life in this deathly (and less hairy) version of himself, Horizontal (2013).

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In the last two years, McCarthy has begun digitally mapping and carving monuments to Snow White out of massive blocks of black walnut. The process is an update on the bronze Snow White figurines he has made in the past, such as the outdoor sculpture Sisters, which has just arrived on West 17th Street and the Hudson River.

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McCarthy has been collaborating with his son, Damon McCarthy, at right, for the past 10 years. The duo recently shot the video installation Rebel Dabble Babble, starring Popper and James Franco, which is set to open at Hauser & Wirth Chelsea on June 20. They have gone on to film around 350 hours of footage in the last month for the forthcoming White Snow installation at the Park Avenue Armory.

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Find works by one of Paul McCarthy’s latest collaborators, James Franco, at right.


Hauser & Wirth to devote entire spring 2013 program
in New York to artist Paul McCarthy
‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’
10 May – 1 June 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’
10 May – 26 July 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 32 East 69th Street
‘Paul McCarthy: Sisters’
10 May – 26 July, Hudson River Park, West 17th Street
‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’
20 June – 26 July 2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street
Press Release
New York, NY…
Hauser & Wirth announced
today that it will devote its entire spring
program in New York City to Paul McCarthy,
one of America’s most challenging and
influential artists, via three interrelated
exhibitions and an outdoor sculpture
presentation. McCarthy has garnered
international acclaim for – and provoked lively
critical debate with – a constantly evolving
oeuvre characterized by wildly dark humor,
Bacchanalian chaos, and tragicomic narratives
that connect seemingly disparate bodies of
work. His practice is notable for its breadth
of forms and emphasis upon performance as
a tool for breaching established boundaries
between genres; using repetition and variation,
he has mined his preoccupying themes across
media and decades. McCarthy unleashes
debauchery and desire with extreme
technical daring, charting a territory where our
fundamental impulses collide with our most
cherished myths and hypocritical societal
norms. His work locates the traumas lurking
behind the gleaming stage set of the American
Dream and identifies their analogs in accepted
art history.
The latest fruits of McCarthy’s explorations will be presented by Hauser & Wirth in New York City
with three ambitious shows: ‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ and ‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’ will open
to the public on 10 May at the gallery’s East 69th and West 18th Street locations, respectively.
In June, ‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’, a vast, provocative video
projection and installation work, will open at 18th Street. The exhibitions are described by the artist
as components of a single on-going work in process: ‘They are parts of one enormous puzzle, very
much the way members of a family are individuals but at the same time connected as participants in
another whole entity’.

The Hauser & Wirth exhibitions will be complemented by outdoor public presentations of two major
McCarthy sculptures. The massive bronze composition ‘Sisters’ (2013) will stand outdoors in West
Chelsea through the summer on a site along the Hudson River at 17th Street, between Pier 57 and
the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. And the 80-foot tall inflatable sculpture ‘Balloon Dog’ (2013) will
be shown on Randall’s Island during the Frieze New York art fair. All of McCarthy’s works on view
in Manhattan this spring relate directly to and provide context for the much-anticipated presentation
of the artist’s major work in progress, ‘WS’, a sprawling installation and video projection project that
will go on view at the Park Avenue Armory beginning 19 June. ‘WS’ will fill the Armory’s vast Drill
Hall with a dark and magical forest sculpture featuring soaring trees and a three-quarter scale exact
recreation of the house where Paul McCarthy grew up: these sets where he and his collaborators
created a video performance work will appear in multiple projections throughout Drill Hall. ‘WS’ uses
as its springboard the story of fairytale princess Snow White and those who have commoditized her,
in order to explore the Oedipal complexities of family, art-making, the institutionalization of history,
and pop culture consumption. ‘WS’ will remain on view through 4 August.
‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’
Beginning on 10 May, Hauser & Wirth 18th Street will open ‘Paul McCarthy: Sculptures’ (on view
through 1 June). In the gallery’s new 25,000 square foot venue, visitors will discover massive black
walnut wood sculptures depicting McCarthy’s versions of characters drawn from the famous 19th
century German folk tale Schneewittchen (Snow White) and his caricatures of modern interpretations
of the story, including those in Disney’s beloved 1937 animated classic film ‘Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs’.
In the 2009 New York City exhibition ‘White Snow’, McCarthy unveiled his first drawings related to
the Snow White theme. With their antecedents in the artist’s earlier ‘Heidi’ and ‘Pinocchio’ series,
these drawings shifted a familiar European narrative back to the New World and pulled equally
from iconic representations of the fairytale characters and recollections from the artist’s own life.
Two years later, the 2011 New York sculpture exhibition ‘The Dwarves, The Forest’ reflected
McCarthy’s fascination with the aggressive and visceral messiness of the sculptural process as it
played out in his exploration of the Snow White story.
The new exhibition ‘Paul McCarthy:
Sculptures’ presents the next step in
McCarthy’s multi-platform mining of the
Snow White story. The new works began with
conventional sculpting. McCarthy developed,
abandoned, reworked and ‘fucked up’
figures based upon Snow White-themed
memorabilia and kitsch figurines. Subsequent
bronze casting and woodcarving constituted
a journey toward abstraction. In the case of
the monumental work ‘Sisters’ (2013), for
example, the artist passed through various
stages of engagement with a single figure of
Snow White. McCarthy started by building
a coherent clay caricature; later, he created
a second version, a near duplicate; then he
combined the two. He removed the heads of
these figures, scanned them to develop new
versions in different sizes, and recombined
the resulting array of heads with the bodies
of his ‘twins’. The resulting binary work was
mounted upon a platform and surrounded
by an accretion of other elements in a
performative attack over time. Such willful
distortion suggests equally offbeat and
charged psychic structures, and places such works firmly in the realm of expressionism. The
final 20-foot tall, 40-foot wide bronze cast of this cumulative, baroque composition, ‘Sisters’ will stand outdoors along the Hudson River at 17th Street in West Chelsea as a complement to the sculptures inside Hauser & Wirth’s 18th Street space.
Inside the gallery, visitors will find a substantial group of large-scale walnut sculptures ranging in
height from four to 14 feet. These include variations of McCarthy’s fractured fairytale characters
White Snow and the Prince. Referencing his 2009 drawings as well as images from auction
catalogues, illustrated books, tabloids, and pornographic magazines, McCarthy employs computer
mapping of figurines to digitally flesh out and manipulate shapes and details, gradually duplicating
and changing the scale of forms. His staged process ‘abstracts through merging’. Appropriating
images and narratives from the culture industry, McCarthy looks to Hollywood and draws from its
tactics for re-structuring reality. Like Walt Disney, he assumes the role of artist as producer, a role he
also performs in ‘WS’. With the latest White Snow works, McCarthy alludes to Disney’s contribution
to the Golden Age of Animation and raises questions about how an artist’s work rearranges and
deranges definitions of art, culture and thought.
McCarthy’s wood sculptures also embrace the ways in which his material’s grain irregularities and
color render compositions of their own. While carving ‘White Snow, Cindy’ (2012), an avatar of
innocence reborn as a sexualized saint, the artist found that his material retained its living properties.
Innate and unexpected details appeared and figures underwent a metamorphosis as random dark
spots emerged in surprisingly strategic places. McCarthy discovered that his Snow White bore an
ironic resemblance to a parallel pop culture icon and commoditized emblem of idealized femininity:
the American supermodel Cindy Crawford.
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’
Also opening to the public on 10 May at Hauser & Wirth’s townhouse on 69th Street, ‘Paul
McCarthy: Life Cast’ (on view through 26 July) showcases highly developed themes and
narratives coursing through and connecting different areas of McCarthy’s vast and complex
practice. Here those themes are revealed through platinum silicone life casts – bravura replicas
of the artist and Elyse Poppers, one of the key performers in his most recent projects ‘Rebel
Dabble Babble’ and ‘WS’.
‘Horizontal’ (2013) is a haunting depiction of the artist in uncanny full-scale replica, naked and prone
in the gallery’s skylit ground floor south room. ‘Horizontal’ is a recent ‘repetition-variation’ of the
2005 work ‘Paul Dreaming, Vertical, Horizontal’, in which the artist’s own body was molded standing
upright. Defined by gravity’s pull, that earlier sculpture was half-clothed and subtly distorted, its
belly and penis distended outward. While ‘Paul Dreaming’ elicits thoughts of death, it also suggests
that the artist is very much alive and a bit of a bearded buffoon in socks and shirt, but no pants.
‘Horizontal’ presents an altogether different avatar and, in the artist’s words, ‘makes no bones about
the fact this is someone dead, without the mask of a clown or the possibility of sleep and dreaming’.
Cast with McCarthy in a prone
position, this morgue-like
caricature strikes a subversive
note in which absurdity and
pathos echo one another.
‘Horizontal’ was presaged
by one of McCarthy’s earliest
exhibited works, the hollow
metal ‘Dead H’ (1968), also
on view in ‘Paul McCarthy:
Life Cast’. ‘Dead H’ – at first
glance a Minimalist sculpture
in the then-prevailing style –
slyly mimics a dead body (and,
coincidentally, a toppled twin
of the first letter in Los Angeles’
famous Hollywood sign).
An ironic comment upon vanitas and the
ambitions and fables of art and culture,
McCarthy’s ‘Dead H’ is a fallen hero. Forty-five
years later, the artist’s study of the body as a
vehicle for liberation and exploitation continues full
force. Works on view at 69th Street also include
‘Rubber Jacket Horizontal, Rubber H’, a poignant
fragment from the life casting activities of the past
year that captures a sunken and hollow portion of
the artist’s own torso.
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ also presents four
female figures of uncanny verisimilitude. All are life
casts of Elyse Poppers achieved through a series
of painstaking processes at the leading edge of
special effects technology. ‘T.G. Awake’ (T.G. is
an acronym for ‘That Girl’ and refers to another
feminine icon, aspiring actress namesake of a hit
1960s situation comedy) is comprised of three
life-sized casts of the actress in similar sitting
positions, with her legs spread open to varying
degrees and eyes cast in different directions.
Together these static variations reference the
magical effect by which a series of still images can
be joined together to become film. ‘T.G. Awake’
found its origins in drawings that McCarthy made
of his wife Karen in the 1960s and relates to the first White Snow pencil drawings of 2009. The
sculpture ‘T.G. Asleep’ presents the same woman prone, her body curved and hands cupped, a
counterpoint to the dead figure of ‘Horizontal’.
The exhibition also includes ‘That Girl’, a four-channel video installation based in the process
by which ‘T.G. Awake’ and ‘T.G. Asleep’ were achieved. Capturing the molding process, the
model’s live movement studies, and the documentation of these through deliberately positioned
cameras, this work brings viewers into the action through which the sculptures on view were
made. ‘Life casting liberates the literal through a kind of unifying monotone,’ McCarthy has said.
‘It creates a different representation of the original thing that lets me explore where reality and
abstraction intersect’.
‘Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Rebel Dabble Babble’
On 20 June, Hauser & Wirth’s 18th street space will re-open with the third of the gallery’s spring
2013 exhibitions: ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a collaboration between Paul McCarthy and his son
Damon McCarthy. On view through 26 July, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a large and complex installation
and video projection work originally inspired by both Nicholas Ray’s 1955 classic Hollywood film
‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and the furious rumors that swirled around the off-set relationships between
its director and his stars James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. This densely layered opus
confronts definitions of power and role-playing, and expands far beyond the ’50s movie and related
legends. Ultimately, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a meditation upon the archetypes and Oedipal tensions
that define family dynamics as they have been played out in private homes, in the evolution of art
history, and in the role of the entertainment industry in shaping our expectations and self-images.
At 18th Street, visitors will discover the gallery dimly lit and transformed into a hullabaloo of clanging
and clamor, yelling and coital grunting. This barrage of sound envelops two large stage sets installed
in the soaring space. One of these is a full-scale two-story house constructed by the McCarthys as
a stand-in for Nicholas Ray’s now infamous Bungalow 2 at the Chateau Marmont. For James Dean
and the 16-year old Wood, both of whom hailed from unhappy families, Ray’s cottage became a
surrogate household with the director as its unconventional patriarch. Rumors abound of quasi-
incestuous affairs between Ray and his actors, of swimming pool orgies and champagne bathtub
freak-outs. It is these scenarios that are the basis for ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’. On the back of the two-
story wooden house, a replica of the Hollywood sign is mounted – upside down. The second stage
set is a replica of the living room staircase in the home of Jim Stark, the central character played

by James Dean in the original ‘Rebel Without a
Cause’ and by James Franco (who also plays
Dean) in ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’.This set is turned
on its side, with props and the residue of filming
strewn exactly where they were left at the end of
Video projections of scenes are presented on
and around these sets. In those projections,
Paul McCarthy and his actors play hybrids of
both Nick Ray’s cinematic characters and the
actors who performed as those characters,
and segue into universal familial roles – father,
mother, daughter, and son. Thus McCarthy plays
both Nick Ray and the Father of Jim Stark, as
well as the archetype of Father; James Franco
is both Jim and James Dean; Elyse Poppers is
Judy and the actress who portrayed her, Natalie
Wood, as well as the embodiment of Daughter.
Jay Yi appears as both Plato and Sal Mineo, the
actor who played Plato in the original movie. And
Suzan Averitt performs as the Mothers of both
Jim Stark and Natalie Wood. With its mind-
bending series of doubles, binaries, and inversions, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ presents perversions
of interchangeable roles and fetish relationships. In the process, it investigates parallel icons in
the history of art – from Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ to Vito Acconci’s infamous
performances – and plays with the psychology of the family.
‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ reflects an important shift in Paul McCarthy’s engagement with the fantastical
tropes of such bodies of work as White Snow, Pirates and Pinocchio, toward more modern and
thoroughly American 20th century pop culture mythologies. As with the two sculpture exhibitions
presented by Hauser & Wirth New York this spring, this ambitious and challenging tour de force
delves deeper into the structures by which fiction successfully presents itself as reality.
Both locations of Hauser & Wirth New York are open to visitors Monday through Friday, 10 am until 6
pm. The general public can find additional information about the gallery, its exhibitions and programs

Paul McCarthy: ‘I had this thing about exposing the interior of the body’

California – where stars are made and dreams come true. But it’s also where, for 40 years, Paul McCarthy has been creating creepy, stomach-churning art. So why does his rags-to-riches story read like a movie plot?

Paul McCarthy portrait

Paul McCarthy: He began his career in the 60s, but didn’t sell anything until the 90s. Until then, he was, ‘basically just a guy covering himself in ketchup.’ Photograph: Amanda Marsalis for the Guardian

I’m here in Los Angeles to interview the artist Paul McCarthy, I tell a taxi driver on a freeway past the skyscrapers of downtown. He gets really excited – the veteran video, performance, body and installation artist who is soon to have a show in Britain must be a local hero, I suppose.

The Paul McCartney?”

“No, Paul McCarthy.”

The taxi conversation ends.

At the hotel, a film crew are setting up their lights. Location trucks drive in and out of the hacienda-style forecourt, bringing equipment, food and dog blankets. The stars are waiting in their cages. The movie is Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3. Out of the window of my room I watch a – human – wedding on a stage set up on a lawn that is bright green, under the gold desert blaze of the sky.

The location is Pasadena, a city sandwiched between the LA sprawl and the San Gabriel mountains. McCarthy has lived in Pasadena for most of his working life, and I am to visit his studio somewhere beyond the giant palm trees of the Hollywood Chihuahua-worthy hotel. The avenues of this wealthy suburb turn out to be dotted with film crews: Pasadena’s mansions, some colonial, some Renaissance, some Spanish-style, some aping log cabins, were built by Old Money as long as a century ago and offered hideaways to the first generation of film stars in the silent era. Today they make perfect movie doubles for Beverly Hills. I am proudly shown the garden where the Steve Martin picture Father Of The Bride was filmed.

Crossing the LA river back into the larger city, the film memories are unavoidable: that concrete channel with its trickle of water is a cinematic legend in itself. Lee Marvin, Point Blank. Charlton Heston, Earthquake. Arnie in Terminator 2, or is it 3…

I know I am here to study the art of Los Angeles County and to meet one of its most celebrated living artists – even if some locals do confuse him with a Beatle – but how can you concentrate on fine art in the city that for a hundred years has shaped the world’s dreams?

This is in the question I most want to ask Paul McCarthy. What does it mean to be a serious visual artist in the shadow of Hollywood? How can American artists cohabit, here on the west coast, with American popular culture so close to its phantasmagoric source? How, in short, can he compete with Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3?

Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

paul mc carthy 4 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy, artiste malin et provocateur, expose des sculptures géantes, gonflées en plastique. Cette immense crotte exposée  à Hong-Kong, donne immédiatement le ton employé par cet artiste contemporain mélangeant habilement esprit Pop et subversion.

Giant sculptures by Paul McCarthy
Paul McCarthy, smart and provocative artist, exhibits giant sculptures, blown plastic. This huge mud exposed to Hong Kong immediately sets the style used by this contemporary artist, Blending spirit Pop and subversion.

paul mc carthy 1 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 2 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 3 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 5 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 6 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 7 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 8 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy paul mc carthy 9 Les sculptures géantes de Paul McCarthy

Photos of Props from Performances:

3 thoughts on “Paul McCarthy: Uncanny Sculptures

  1. This is in the question I most want to ask Paul McCarthy. What does it mean to be a serious visual artist in the shadow of Hollywood? How can American artists cohabit, here on the west coast, with American popular culture so close to its phantasmagoric source? How, in short, can he compete with Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3?

  2. On September 25, 2010, New York gallery L&M Arts opened a branch in Los Angeles. The inaugural exhibition Paul McCarthy: Three Sculptures features three new large-scale sculptures by Paul McCarthy . The artist’s first exhibition in his hometown in a decade features Apple Tree Boy Apple Tree Girl (2010), Ship of Fools, Ship Adrift (2010), and Train, Mechanical (2003-2010).

  3. Winding through the labyrinthine installation, beset by mumbled incantations and strangled screams, I found myself wondering why the Armory, one of New York’s newest and most appealing cultural destinations, would commit its resources and its reputation to this bloated horror. “WS” is the first visual arts project presented by its new artistic director, Alex Poots, and it is contrived to court controversy. A shrill chorus of moral guardians has predictably joined in: the New York Post is desperately trying to revive the dormant culture wars of 20 years ago, using flammable phrases like “demented, debauched and just plain dirty”.

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