About McCarthy’s works
Reporting here on the ground in June 2022 and yeah, I guess it makes me smile. I'm laughing a lot at things lately that taste really bitter on the way down. I know, I know, how low. Nevertheless, here we are now, still stupid and even more contagious. It's Monday morning and I'm eating my Grapenuts, banana and frosted mini-wheats cereal combo. There's a palpable sense that the handle of a giant ass vice is being twisted and the pressure on a vast majority of people is causing what friends here describe as “weird times''. A letter from my landlord arrived. Days later I finally open it and see that my rent will be increased by seven percent and at that moment I forget just why I taste. It’s a total vibe.
That morning, I listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on repeat for forty five minutes straight and it was remarkable listening to something fearless, ironic, visceral and creatively ambiguous. It’s quintessential 90’s grunge but didn’t strike me as dated and I didn’t have a nostalgic experience, longing for something that never really was, but rather found myself unironically reveling in what had been captured. I have no problems admitting that at certain moments within that forty five minute span, there were tears running down my face and the hair on my arms was standing up on end. Goosebumps, too, all over. It was some kind of electrical current pulse that nearly caused me to ugly cry and laugh hysterically all at the same time. It was very close to happening. It’s somehow fitting that I was looking at McCarthy’s work very heavily this month. It feels like something when I see it. It’s not a prop or a speculative investment vessel that contains a very fleeting trace of what art is or was or supposed to be. It’s like, very heavy and communicates something authentic and difficult and most importantly it’s offensive. It feels like something and, like it or not, it sticks like pieces of wet cat poop to toilet paper.
A fissure on America’s forehead or perhaps one on its anus, wherever it hurts the most. A stained, woolen lined slipper at the bottom of POZZZY reinforces its inherent split and the lack of its partner makes it all the more explicit. I once read a book by Samuel Beckett, How it is. From the scratch of my memory I can peel out lines from it on command, “we’re on a veranda smothered in verbena the scented sun dapples the red tile yes I assure you the huge head hatted with birds and flowers is bowed down over my curls the eyes burn with severe love I offer her mine pale upcast to the sky whence cometh our help and which I know perhaps even then with time shall pass away.” I like to think I memorized this passage because it was the only reprieve from the reality of the book about a man crawling through the mud. Memories, consciousness, images overlapping, running mind grafted over the physical reality of his dire situation routing through and creating a humid, human, earthen crevice.
Yes, Paul McCarthy is the creeping ball of pubic hair and wet pancake batter that lives in the fissure in America’s ass and it’s an incredible achievement to have carved out and laid claim to that territory. It’s the inescapable ugly looking back from the mirror and it contains so much of America that it’s impossible to look away. The jaw of the Mickey Mouse face drops at the sight of its own appearance. Hot, garbage-garlic belches ring perpetual and as plangent as the day is long. The most impressive part of his drawings is that on top of everything, they’re so funny and seductive that I’m tempted to enter into a teenage suicide pact with them and ask my parents if they can sleep over on Friday night. I would of course wake up the next morning horrified and do it again Saturday night.
McCarthy’s work completely obliterates us at a time when it’s already difficult to maintain any sense of continuity (note the disjointed structure of the writing). A conservative court has set us back decades regarding human autonomy when things weren’t great before. They’re for sure going to get worse with concealed carry, guns blazing. Very, very American. The Democratic party is still weak, politically and creatively impoverished. Uncertainty and Entropy hold hands and eventually get married. They have many many many children and somehow never get divorced. Eva and Adolph, here we are now, entertain us. McCarthy’s work tells us everything we need to know about power, the culture industry, institutional structure, the performative grift and the connective tissue that has held the fleet of pirate ships together.
McCarthy’s work envelops you in a way that’s very uncomfortable because the truth of it is never ever far away, in fact, it’s hiding in plain sight and has been for decades. His career spans over 50 years. The pop culture iconography touches nearly everyone and he uses it to great effect. Paul has always done the hard work of excavating it for us in the form of drawings, sculptures, performances and video. Here, in collaboration with the German actor Lilith Strangengberg, they writhe around on a table structure in character as Adolph and Eva where the drawings they produce provide a constant reminder of the presence of and potential rise of fascism and other grotesque forms of institutional power.
Paul McCarthy. A&E Drawings with Lilith Stangenberg is on view through July 17th at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. More information can be found at "Paul McCarthy. A&E Drawings A&E Drawing Session 2021 With Lilith Stangenberg".