Paul McCarthy: Wikis


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Paul McCarthy
Born August 4, 1945 (1945-08-04) (age 64)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Nationality American
Field Performance art
Training San Francisco Art Institute
University of Southern California
Works Sailor's Meat from 1975, The Garden from 1991

Paul McCarthy (born August 4, 1945 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California.



McCarthy studied art at the University of Utah 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 has 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.[1] 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.[1]


"Santa Claus with a Buttplug" (2007), a 24 meter high inflatable work by Paul McCarthy displayed at a public park in Antwerp, Belgium, October 2007

Paul McCarthy misleadingly is often considered to be influenced by the Viennese Actionism. Although by his own statement the happenings of the group were known to him in the 1970s, he sees a clear difference between the self-injurious 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."[2] 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."[3] 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 injured. He then vomited several times and inserted a Barbie doll into his rectum.[1] The piece ended when the audience could no longer stand to watch his performance.[1]

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.[1]

McCarthy has created several Christmas-themed works. Through them, he combines the dismal aesthetic and the real meaning of Christmas.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.
  • McCarthy, Paul. Paul McCarthy. London: Phaidon Press, 1996.
  • 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.
  • Sauerlander, Kathrin. Paul McCarthy: Videos 1970-1997. Cologne: Walther König, 2004.


  1. ^ a b c d e Klein, Jennie (May 2001). "Paul McCarthy: Rites of Masculinity". PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 23 (2): 10–17. doi:10.2307/3246503. Retrieved 2007-05-27.  
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Roberta Smith (May 15, 1998). "ART REVIEW: Work on the Wild Side, Raw, Rank and Morbid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-26.  
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Cashdan, Marina. “McCarthyismModern Painters, November 2009.
  6. ^ Cashdan, Marina. “McCarthyismModern Painters, November 2009.

External links

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