Paul McCarthy: WS SC at Hauser and Wirth
Hauser and Wirth have blacked out their windows for this exhibition, which itself says something about the charged content. As explicit, crude and provocative as ever, each of Paul McCarthy’s new paintings is a visual upsurge of wild activity. With 14 impressively large-scale paintings and over 50 drawings, the White Snow and Stagecoach projects are McCarthy’s newest comments.
With unashamed graphic depictions and presentations of human and animal sexual activity, one would be hard pressed not to pull a face at McCarthy’s subject matter and direct method of address. Prompting a laugh, blush or grimace, the paintings are admirably potent and maybe even to some viewers, shocking. McCarthy’s imagery goes beyond sensationalist pornography, where the idea of shock in art has been exhausted. The combination of printed and painted image reveals that although both involved naked bodies, the paint is the stronger and more moving medium.
The thick, glutenous use of paint, clashing colour combination and word-play loudly echo much of McCarthy’s previous performative work. The muddied mixture of fake hair and magazine adverts in the paint enhances the claustrophobic flesh-on-grubby-flesh feeling the work evokes. As a painter he is somehow juvenile as well as sophisticated in his brushwork, and formally, his distribution of action and stillness is well-balanced but visceral.
The paintings perch in the territory of sculpture as McCarthy’s range of ready-made materials are forcefully inserted into his compositions. In SC ECK a pair of cowboy boots protrude, representing a sustained interest in the themes of Western cowboy films and masculine sexuality. Repeatedly, the canvas surface itself is butchered, gashes and perforations in the many orifices of the figures make the paintings physical as well as illusory; they spew suggestions of violent entrance and discomfort.
McCarthy’s smaller-scale pencil and paper drawings have a more sinister and even invasive feel, exploring torture and bestiality. They ask for reflection on how we have been desensitised to explicit images but probably simultaneously disconnected from the many less glamorous layers of sexual desire and fantasy. Using recognisable brands and figures like SC Brad Pitt (2014), SC Robert Redford (2014), WS Dolce and Gabbana (2014) and WS Chanel, Dreaming (2014), they are contextualised outside of McCarthy’s imaginings and anchored in reality.
Paul McCarthy WS SC is on at Hauser and Wirth South Gallery from 13th September until 1st November 2014, for further information visit here.