Paul McCarthy's (1945) career, spanning over forty years of production, can at once be summarized as chaotic, grotesque, and provocative. His work stems from an adolescence in American popular culture saturated with corn syrup, ketchup, and coca cola, childrens' toys and Disney - materials and references which act as sweetened and cheapened metaphors for the very most basic elements of human life: sweat, blood, sex, desire, feces.
McCarthy's world -as represented through his work- is cruel and euphoric but oddly familiar, often taking the form of a skewed allegory or fairytale (Pinocchio or Heidi, for example). His adaptations of these stories methodically predict human excess, spilling proverbial guts and blood to cut to the quick of human tendencies universally recognized but hardly spoken of. Throughout, an insistent question of the role of the artist is posed. Rejecting the idea of artist as mystic, McCarthy plays the parody, repeating and re-interpreting the images he grew up with by approaching their limits.
For this exhibition at Charles Riva Collection, a collection of video, photographic, editioned and original sculptural work will be exhibited. "Heidi" (1993), the oldest work in the collection, is a collaborative video with Mike Kelley, an interpretation of the classic alpine story of a girl and her grandfather, in which the story is warped and played out to its furthest extent. This video serves as a reference to McCarthy's earlier works, experiments delving into the possibility of video as a stage for performance.
Other works exhibited, such as "Silver Santa" (2009), "Captain Dick Head" (2009), and "Brancusi Tree" (2007) are shown as multiples made in silver, silicone, and mylar respectively. McCarthy frequently reproduces his sculptures in a range of materials and colours, a process which renders the objects on each occasion more self-sufficiently iconic, approaching perhaps the status of their source materials.
Also on exhibit will be seventy-nine photographs from McCarthy's "Pirate Party" Portfolio (2005), documentation of a performance originally shown as part of the “LaLa Land Parody Paradise” exhibition at Haus der Kunst in Munich. Here again, the image of the pirate as it relates to American entertainment culture is provoked, playfully referencing Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" while activating the potential of pillaging, plundering, and as always, destruction.