Hail King Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy


Paul McCarthy’s energetic new London exhibition at Hauser & Wirth does not disappoint, turning out to be one of 2011’s ‘must-see’ shows

Paul McCarthy’s major new exhibition at Hauser & Wirth is a joyous sprawl of pop cultural reference, creaky robotics, and splayed legs. Straddling both the Savile Row and Piccadilly galleries, as well as an outdoor location at St. James’s Square, this show reflects the hysterical diversity of McCarthy’s lunatic practice, and is, without a doubt, a ‘must-see’ for 2011.

The main room of the Piccadilly gallery has become a quasi-temple, with lines of reverent church pews dwarfed by a monumental alter/stage/hangman’s platform. At its centre sits McCarthy’s nude and hideous silicone doppelganger – with waist-length blonde hair, near-severed limbs, bulging belly, and elephantine phallus. Behind ‘The King’, hangs a large-scale hyper-real portrait, contrasting the figure’s blobby ickyness with airbrushed graphic perfection, R’n’B slickness, and chiselled pectorals.

Upstairs, we are treated to one of McCarthy’s new mechanicalworks, ‘Mad House Jr.’ – a maniacally spinning cube/room on animatronic piston-legs, powered by a crazy circuit board of flashing components and innumerable cables. Inside, a miniature camera captures the motion, with the nauseating internal experience imposed on the viewer via projection upon the adjacent wall. Similar to this work, is the almost unwatchable video being exhibited in the basement, in which hundreds of magazine advertisements flicker at breakneck speed, inexhaustibly bombarding the bleary viewer with saturated colour and need-inducing slogans.

As a centrepiece for the orgy-filled Savile Row gallery, we are given the massive and utterly transfixing ‘Train, Mechanical’ – a robotic sculpture in which monstrous caricatures of George W. Bush sodomise pigs with orgasmic intensity, their hips thrusting, their buttocks clenching, their heads spinning. The can’t-take-your-eyes-off quality derives from the incredible attention to detail, with every snuffling snout and orifice robotically animated with unnerving subtlety.

In the following room, the viewer is met with a messy, detritus strewn set of sculptures. These are islands, constructed from crumbling blocks of polystyrene, splintered wood, cast body parts, clay splodges, spray paint, and fast food containers, all swimming in a sea of grime-trodden blue carpet…

But this whirlwind tour cannot do justice to the sheer fullness of the exhibition. Two-dimensional highlights, for example, include: McCarthy’s exquisite pencil plans, drawn up for the construction of the Mad House; and the squeaky clean photo-paintings of monolithic, eye-level labia that succeed in surrounding themselves with a buffer zone of embarrassment.

For art/spectacle lovers, Christmas has well and truly come early. Go see.

Words/ Photo Thomas Keane © 2011 ArtLyst

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