Paul McCarthy

(Salt Lake City, Utah, 1945 - )

While still a student, Paul McCarthy threw himself out of a second floor window in a performance/action, emulating Yves Klein's legendary "Leap into the Void." McCarthy was an influential figure in the Southern California art and performance scene for decades before achieving international recognition. His performance work in the late 1970s explored areas of Dionysian and shamanistic initiation rituals, as well as the body and sexuality. The intensity of these performances, which often included the graphic depiction of taboo subjects, eventually led to his use of video and installation as primary media.

Mining the depths of the family and childhood via kitsch and pop cultural detritus, the body and sexuality, and an often outrageous theatricality, McCarthy's works inhabit a violent landscape of dysfunction and trauma. In many of his works, he adopts a performance persona that appears crazed, witch-like, or infantile. McCarthy's works often involve liquids, from bodily fluids to paint; one performance involved mixing his own blood with food, an obsessive gesture that is simulated in Family Tyranny.

In the late 1980s, McCarthy began using film and television sets as elements in video/performance installations. Often these elaborate fabrications involved the restaging of culturally-charged myths and icons, such as Heidi and Pinocchio, in the context of family psychodramas, Hollywood genres, and mass media.

Although several of the works in this selection have been made in collaboration with Mike Kelley, themes and images that are distinctly McCarthy's are always evident.

McCarthy was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1945. After attending the University of Utah, he received his B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute, and his M.F.A. from the University of Southern California. In the summer of 2013, McCarthy installed a large-scale, film-and-sculpture environment, "WS," at the Park Avenue Armory, New York. "WS" ran in conjunction with three solo shows of McCarthy's work at both Hauser & Wirth locations in New York City. His work has been shown in the 1993 Venice Biennale and Sonsbeek '93, Arnheim, and in exhibitions at Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Musee d'Art Contemporain, Lausanne, Switzerland, among many others. Solo exhibitions of McCarthy's work have been organized by Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Denmark; Middelheim Sculpture Museum, Antwerp, Belgium; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Hamburg Kunsthalle, Germany; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Air de Paris, Nice; and at major galleries worldwide.


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