August 4, 1945 |
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
|Training||San Francisco Art Institute
University of Southern California
|Works||Sailor's Meat from 1975, The Garden from 1991, Bossy Burger from 1991|
|Influenced by||Lost Art Movement, Yves Klein, Jackson Pollock, Joseph Beuys|
|Influenced||Jonathan Meese, Mike Kelley (artist), Christoph Büchel, Jake and Dinos Chapman|
McCarthy was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and studied art at the University of Utah and Weber State University in 1969. He went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute receiving a BFA in painting. In 1972 he studied film, video, and art at the University of Southern California receiving an MFA. From 1982 to 2002 he taught performance, video, installation, and performance art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. McCarthy currently works mainly in video and sculpture.
Originally formally trained as a painter, McCarthy's main interest lies in everyday activities and the mess created by them. Much of his work in the late 1960s, such as Mountain Bowling (1969) and Hold an Apple in Your Armpit (1970) are similar to the work of Happenings founder Allan Kaprow, with whom McCarthy had a professional relationship.
McCarthy's works include performance, installation, film and "painting as action". His points of reference are rooted, on the one hand, in things typically American, such as Disneyland, B-Movies, Soap Operas and Comics – he is a critical analyst of the mass media and consumer-driven American society and its hypocrisy, double standards and repression. On the other hand, it is European avant-garde art that has had the most influence on his artistic form language. Such influences include the Lost Art Movement, Joseph Beuys, Sigmund Freud and Samuel Beckett and particularly the Viennese Actionism. Although by his own statement the happenings of the Viennese Actionists were known to him in the 1970s, he sees a clear difference between the actions of the Viennese and his own performances: "Vienna is not Los Angeles. My work came out of kids' television in Los Angeles. I didn't go through Catholicism and World War II as a teenager, I didn't live in a European environment. People make references to Viennese art without really questioning the fact that there is a big difference between ketchup and blood. I never thought of my work as shamanistic. My work is more about being a clown than a shaman." In his early works, McCarthy sought to break the limitations of painting by using the body as a paintbrush or even canvas; later, he incorporated bodily fluids or food as substitutes into his works. In a 1974 video, Painting, Wall Whip, he painted with his head and face, "smearing his body with paint and then with ketchup, mayonnaise or raw meat and, in one case, feces." This clearly resembled the work of Vienna actionist Günter Brus. Similarly, his work evolved from painting to transgressive performance art, psychosexual events intended to fly in the face of social convention, testing the emotional limits of both artist and viewer. An example of this is his 1976 piece Class Fool, where McCarthy threw himself around a ketchup spattered classroom at the University of California, San Diego until dazed and self-injured. He then vomited several times and inserted a Barbie doll into his rectum. The piece ended when the audience could no longer stand to watch his performance. Concerned that the University's custodians would have to clean up the mess, graduate students Virginia Maksymowicz and Blaise Tobia, along with art historian Moira Roth, spent several hours cleaning up the ketchup and vomit. Maksymowicz can be seen in the rear left of a documentary photo of the event.
McCarthy's work in the 1990s, such as Painter (1995), often seeks to undermine the idea of "the myth of artistic greatness" and attacks the perception of the heroic male artist, a banal critical tactic adopted by many contemporary artists who lack actual talent.
McCarthy’s transfixion with Johanna Spyri’s novel Heidi led to his 1992 video and installation, Heidi: Midlife Crisis Trauma Center and Negative Media-Engram Abreaction Release Zone, which he collaborated on with Mike Kelley.
During the summer of 2008, Paul McCarthy’s inflatable “Complex Shit”, installed on the grounds of the Paul Klee Centre in Bern, Switzerland, took off in a wind bringing down a power line, breaking a greenhouse window, and broke a window at a children’s home. This incident was widely reported internationally via news outlets in several languages with headlines like “Huge turd catastrophe for museum” and “Up in the sky: is it a turd or a plane?”
McCarthy has created several Christmas-themed works. Through them, he combines the dismal aesthetic and the real meaning of Christmas. In 2001 he created 'Santa Claus' for the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Originally it intended to be placed next to the concerthall at the locally famous square 'Schouwburgplein', but it never was. This was due to controversies around the statue (the work is seen by many citizens to have a sexual connotations, and therefore it also is colloquially referred to as 'Butt Plug Gnome'), and besides the original location it was also rejected by (citizens and retailers of) several other proposed locations. On the 28th of November 2008 did it, however, receive a permanent destination: the square Eendrachtsplein, within a walkway of statues project.
In November 2009, an exhibition called “White Snow” was held at Hauser & Wirth New York, featuring McCarthy’s mixed-media works centered on the character Snow White from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Exhibitions (selection) 
- 2009 De Uithof, City of Utrecht, Paul McCarthy – Air Pressure
- 2009 Hauser & Wirth New York, White Snow
- 2009 Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Paul McCarthy & Benjamin Weissman – Quilting Sessions, Warsaw
- 2008 Whitney Museum of American Art, Central Symmetrical Rotation Movement – Three Installations, Two Films, New York
- 2007 S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Paul McCarthy – Head Shop / Shop Head, Ghent
- 2007 Middelheim Sculpture Museum, Paul McCarthy – Air Born / Air Borne / Air Pressure, Antwerp
- 2006 Moderna Museet, Paul McCarthy – Head Shop / Shop Head, Stockholm
- 2005 Haus der Kunst, Paul McCarthy - LaLa land parodie paradies, Munich
- 2004 Van Abbemuseum, Paul McCarthy. Brain Box – Dream Box, Eindhoven
- 2003 Hauser & Wirth, Paul McCarthy. Piccadilly Circus, London
- 2003 Tate Modern, Paul McCarthy at Tate Modern, London
- Blazwick, Iwona. Paul McCarthy: Head Shop. Shop Head. Stockholm: Steidl/Moderna Museet, 2006.
- Bronfen, Elisabeth. Paul McCarthy: Lala Land. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2005.
- Glennie, Sarah. Paul McCarthy at Tate Modern: Block Head and Daddies Big Head. London: Tate, 2003.
- Monk, Philip. Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy: Collaborative Works. Toronto: Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery at Harbourfront Centre, 2000.
- Phillips, Lisa. Paul McCarthy. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2001.
- Rugoff, Ralph. Paul McCarthy. London: Phaidon Press, 1996.
- Sauerlander, Kathrin. Paul McCarthy: Videos 1970-1997. Cologne: Walther König, 2004.
- Sherer, Daniel. “Heidi on the Loos. Ornament and Crime in Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy’s Heidi.” PIN-UP 3 (2008), 59-62.
- Zebracki, Martin. Engaging geographies of public art: indwellers, the ‘Butt Plug Gnome’ and their locale. Social & Cultural Geography 13(7), 735–758
- Klein, Jennie (May 2001). "Paul McCarthy: Rites of Masculinity". PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 23 (2): 10–17. doi:10.2307/3246503. JSTOR 3246503.
- Paul McCarthy's Low Life Slow Life. Edited by Stacen Berg, Jens Hoffmann, texts by Jens Hoffmann, Paul McCarthy, interview with Paul McCarthy by Stacen Berg. Ostfildern (Hatje Cantz Verlag). 2010. ISBN 978-3-7757-2573-6
- Petersen, Magnus af:„Paul McCarthy's 40 years of hard work-an attempt at a summary”, in: “Head Shop/Shop Head”, Steidl Verlag, Göttingen, 2006, p.20
- Roberta Smith (May 15, 1998). "Art Review: Work on the Wild Side, Raw, Rank and Morbid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- page 73, Live Art in LA: Performance in Southern California, 1970 - 1983; ed. Peggy Phelan, Routledge Press, ©2012
- Cashdan, Marina. “McCarthyism” Modern Painters, November 2009.
- (August 12, 2008). Complex Shit causes museum chaos, The Australian. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
- (August 12, 2008). Huge turd catastrophe for museum. Metro (London, UK). Retrieved July 25, 2010.
- (August 13, 2008). Up in the sky: is it a turd? Is it a plane? The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
- Nielson, Emma (2007). "The World as Pirate’s Lair – Paul McCarthy’s LaLa Land, Parody Paradise". Pulse Berlin (Relation). Retrieved 2007-09-01. "McCarthy has a predilection for American myths and icons. In most of his works, he takes the models and role models of that world and skewers them. Santa Claus, Pinocchio and the cowboy play just as important a role in the imagery as Bush or the Queen of England" Review of McCarthy’s 2007 LaLa Land exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London , and Haus der Kunst, Munich.
- Zebracki, Martin (2012). Engaging geographies of public art: indwellers, the ‘Butt Plug Gnome’ and their locale. Social & Cultural Geography 13(7), 735–758
- (November 28, 2008). Santa Claus Finds A Permanent New Home In Rotterdam, TAXI. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Paul McCarthy|
- Media related to Paul McCarthy at Wikimedia Commons
- New York Times article: Fairy Tales, but Strictly Adults-Only
- Hauser & Wirth, Zürich, London, New York
- frieze review of 'Low Life Slow Life'
- New York Times review
- Paul McCarthy in the Video Data Bank
- Tate Modern
- Galerie Georges-Philippe et Nathalie Vallois, Paris, France
- Paul McCarthy, HEAD SHOP/SHOP HEAD, 2007, SMAK, Ghent
- Black and White Tape, 1972
- (fr) Article sur Paul McCarthy in Art and You
- "aftershock" review of 'Low Life Slow Life'