FIRST LOOK: PAUL McCARTHY “SCULPTURES” AT HAUSER & WIRTH NYC

May 14, 2013  |  art

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Legendary art world antihero Paul McCarthy managed to put the brakes on manufacturing chocolate butt plugs just long enough to debut a powerhouse body of new work at Hauser & Wirth in NYC last week during the Frieze art fair. At the heart of the exhibition, titled simply, "Paul McCarthy: Sculptures," are an array of mostly massive-scale solid black walnut sculptures of the artist's twisted, tortured vision of the classic Snow White tale with characters melting and morphing into one another as only Paul McCarthy could envision.

In the artspeak of the gallery:
Inside the gallery, visitors will find a substantial group of large-scale walnut sculptures ranging in height from four to 14 feet. These include variations of McCarthy's fractured fairytale characters White Snow and the Prince. Referencing his 2009 drawings as well as images from auction catalogues, illustrated books, tabloids, and pornographic magazines, McCarthy employs computer mapping of figurines to digitally flesh out and manipulate shapes and details, gradually duplicating and changing the scale of forms.

His staged process 'abstracts through merging'. Appropriating images and narratives from the culture industry, McCarthy looks to Hollywood and draws from its tactics for re-structuring reality. Like Walt Disney, he assumes the role of artist as producer, a role he also performs in 'WS'. With the latest White Snow works, McCarthy alludes to Disney's contribution to the Golden Age of Animation and raises questions about how an artist's work rearranges and deranges definitions of art, culture and thought.

McCarthy's wood sculptures also embrace the ways in which his material's grain irregularities and color render compositions of their own. While carving 'White Snow, Cindy' (2012), an avatar of innocence reborn as a sexualized saint, the artist found that his material retained its living properties. Innate and unexpected details appeared and figures underwent a metamorphosis as random dark spots emerged in surprisingly strategic places. McCarthy discovered that his Snow White bore an ironic resemblance to a parallel pop culture icon and commoditized emblem of idealized femininity: the American supermodel Cindy Crawford.

Rounding out the exhibition in stark contrast is a separate installation titled "Life Cast," which is comprised of a perfectly realistic sculpture of the artist naked and lying on a table in all his sagging, aging glory. It's probably a meditation on death or something, but above all else, it's old man Paul McCarthy lying naked on a table in an art gallery.

The whole thing is an incredible spectacle and easily one of the most interesting, compelling spectacles of the young year. Consider it essential viewing...

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