Kukje Gallery is pleased to announce Cut Up and Silicone, Female Idol, WS, a solo exhibition of new work by Paul McCarthy. This is the artist’s second showing following his acclaimed Paul McCarthy: nine dwarves, which served as the inaugural exhibition of the K3 gallery in 2012. For the current show, McCarthy will install an ambitious combination of sculptures and drawings in both K2 and K3.
Over more than four decades, McCarthy has repeatedly created complex inter-related bodies of work, positioning his practice at a critical nexus in contemporary art. Exploiting genres as diverse as performance, video, sculpture, photography, and drawing, his work challenges audiences to confront myth and wrestle with the psychological undercurrents of capitalism. In repeatedly co-opting folklore, and popular iconographies, the artist’s work confronts how mass media and social conventions have shaped modern society. McCarthy has used familiar stories such as those seen in Disney cartoons and Hollywood, combining them with archetypal leitmotifs of sex, beauty, death, and religion. In this way McCarthy’s work confronts the viewer with the littered landscape of the twentieth century consumption and the underlying impulses of the dominant western culture industry.
These themes are perfectly embodied by Picabia Idol, a series of sculptural figures installed in K2. Cast in silicone, these brightly colored figures were inspired by a painting by the French artist Francis Picabia (1879–1953) titled Woman with Idol (1940–1943). In it an erotic female figure embraces a giant pagan idol. McCarthy juxtaposes a series of silicone sculptures of the imaginary idol with an elongated inkjet print of Picabia’s original painting that covers the wall—thereby rendering a two-dimensional phantasm into a concrete, three-dimensional entity. Appropriating the fetish object in much the same way as a Disney character, McCarthy uses the uncanny figure to comment on both myth and the processes of reproduction. In K2 variations of the “Idol” reflect the process of casting—a technique done in progressive stages that utilizes a central component known as a “core.” Typically hidden from view and encased within the sculpture itself, the artist’s interest in the core presents an unsettling vision of what lies beneath or within our fictional characters—in effect, presenting the interior space of popular myths.
In K2 there is the original idol sculpted by McCarthy titled Picabia Idol and then there are cores taken one from the other. In the first the artist added greater depth to the original subject and details not depicted by Picabia in his painting. In the progressive cores, the fabrication reveals vertical and horizontal cuts, part of the process. Each version of the Picabia Idol Core sculpture reflects this technique, growing increasingly skeletal with each iteration. In this way, McCarthy acknowledges how processes designed to attain verisimilitude contain innate abstractions and symbolic meaning such as in negative or interior spaces. In rendering different stages of this archetypal fetish, the artist has created a potent reflection on desire, the primitive, and the supernatural while playfully engaging Picabia, one of the twentieth century’s greatest and most enigmatic artists.
One of the unique ways the artist works is to recycle and reclaim aspects of his fabrication process as a means of creating new and unpredictable sculptures. He has likened these works to “spin-offs,” alluding both to their material evolution and the popular term in Hollywood for cross-marketing entertainment products. In the case of Snow White, McCarthy has created numerous intersecting bodies of works including video, installation, and sculpture under the title White Snow (WS). McCarthy will include two versions from this series in K2, White Snow Head, in white and in a pink flesh. These will be shown alongside two White Snow Head Cores.
Installed in the K3 space is another never-before-seen series of sculptures titled Cut Ups. In these works McCarthy has used a 3D-scanner to map an existing cast of his own naked body that had already been showcased several years ago and once again casts it in high-density urethane resin. Cutting and reassembling these detailed scans before they are used to make the casts, McCarthy again confronts the way form consists of both external and internal structures. By exploiting prototyping processes and casting technology, and by cutting and revealing the material embodiment of the human figure, McCarthy points to the ritual function of sculpture as well as the more mundane omnipresence of mass-produced stuff.
Exhibited in tandem on the gallery walls, the artist has also produced a suite of life-sized inkjet prints made using the same digital scans. These capture in minute detail the artist’s body as a three dimensional model. Perversely alluding back to commercial manufacturing, the digital depictions evoke a kind of autopsy or, conversely, a design for a mass-marketed figurine. McCarthy has covered the prints with thick layers of paint as well as large loosely scrawled words. By using words to partially erase or leave only the outlines of his body, the artist makes a gesture that distorts and denies a simple definition of the self.
McCarthy’s works in the exhibition illustrate how an artist’s observation of the world can be combined with the technical demands of the artistic process to form an acute cross-section, revealing the fraught, often complex relationship between people and the social structures that surround them.
About the Artist
Paul McCarthy was born in 1945 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has studied at University of Utah, San Francisco Art Institute, and University of Southern California. Starting from the mid-1970s, McCarthy became known for his performance and film works. During the 1990s he extended his practice to standalone sculptural figures, installations, and large-scale sculptures both animated and inflatable, and from the mid- to late 1990s collaborated with Mike Kelley, Jason Rhoades, and Damon McCarthy. McCarthy has held solo and travelling exhibitions at numerous museums and institutions such as Hammer Museum of the University of California, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Tate Liverpool, Liverpool; Tate Modern, London; New Museum, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Other notable participations in international events and public art projects include the Venice Biennale (1993, 1999, 2001), the Whitney Biennial (1995, 1997, 2004), and the Berlin Biennial (2006). His works are housed in major museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Tate Collection, London; and the private collections of François Pinault, Dakis Joannou, George Economou, and the Rubell Family. The artist currently lives and works in Los Angeles.