Art Press : 2020-04-20

GRAPHIC WORK : 67 : 67


67 graphic work Something that stands out in the exhibition is the increasing­ly marked presence of the universe of Walt Disney, deeply perverted, and the final offer of a work marked by feminism. In the early 1990s McCarthy’s mechanical sculptures, some of which can be seen in preparator­y drawings ( 1991-92), were directly inspired by the robot puppets in Disneyland Park, a few dozen kilometres south of Los Angeles. In the early 2000s, two years before the film’s success, would directly take up the theme of the eponymous attraction opened in 1967. But it is mainly Snow White who occupies the last decade of McCarthy’s work – and the exhibition’s last room. There we find large-format works, where drawings of frenzied copulation are next to pages from pornograph­ic magazines. In the centre of the room the model for the giant installati­on presented at the 2013 Armory Show in New York and today in McCarthy’s huge workshop-warehouse in Pasadena. the point that one wonders if it isn’t too neat. What has become of those almost rough drafts, the sheets of notebooks covered with scattered lines, the grotesque daubs on bathroom plywood, the erasures on a place mat, once displayed in a vitrine or better, framed and lined up on white walls? Ordering chaos has advantages and disadvanta­ges. The immense amount of work represente­d by this exhibition (more than 600 drawings) tends to make us forget that McCarthy’s work is a powerful, grotesque and nightmaris­h mess. We could have done in this regard without the (1980), parodying the macho ethos of the great representa­tives of abstract expression­ism. More stimulatin­g would have been to present the article published in 1980 in the magazine High Performanc­e, where a photograph of the performanc­e was accompanie­d by the following text: “A PENIS PAINTING APPRECIATE­D. The penis, a male tool, used as a brush to apply paint to a canvas. The painting is something to show, a gallery item; to sell, a profit item. Ace Gallery will show it and the Grinsteins will buy it.” (1). It is difficult to comment more causticall­y on the process of commodific­ation of works of art. At the Hammer, it has to be said, not without bitterness, that thirty years of success has got the better of part of McCarthy’s causticity – unless it is the museum set-up that has domesticat­ed it. You can bet that the the plaque of which reads “courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth”, will soon find themselves on the picture rails of the powerful gallery and thus become precisely what the artist denounced in producing them. Let’s remember the genesis of the exhibition: the curators trumped the Hauser & Wirth gallery which, when it opened its gigantic space in Los Angeles in 2016, planned an exhibition of McCarthy’s drawings. If we can salute the curator’s approach affirming the importance of an independen­t scientific and museum discourse on the graphic work of the artist, we can nonetheles­s fear that the main effect is only an increasing commodific­ation of what was above all a compulsive practice, often not intended for exhibition. Because if some large series are in private hands and in institutio­ns ( was acquired by MoMA), most of the drawings are still in the artist’s possession, but managed by Hauser & Wirth.This is the tragedy of McCarthy’s career: becoming an internatio­nal long after spending his life exploring the “rat in each of us”, caught up in an art world that has become a luxury world. Translatio­n: Chloé Baker Garden Drawings, Pirates of the Caribbean Penis Brush Paintings WS Snow White, Are these images defamatory? Those that depict women in particular? The exhibition rightly responds: no. It even goes so far as to suggest a feminist posture for the artist, which is reinforced by his proximity since the 1970s to the feminist performers Barbara T. Smith and Linda F. Burnham, editor of High Performanc­e magazine. Violence at work, sometimes ultra-sexualized, is the artist’s very personal response to the violence of the world, to machismo, to excessive consumeris­m. A regressive, repulsive, gross but very rarely Sadian (not erotic) ultra-violence. The monstrous beast in all of us. One theme runs throughout the exhibition: sex. And yet McCarthy’s work is by no means an ode to sexuality, quite the contrary. If there is a red thread to be noted it is this one: sex is everywhere, from start to finish, but increasing­ly dark and violent, bloody or stained with excrement. In the 1970s, people were still into an erotica of ketchup and saliva: in the videos, the artist’s body approaches androgyny, splashes around, is smeared, touched. Since the 1990s, sex is no longer a matter of pleasure, even confused pleasure. The visitors, fascinated, perhaps dumbfounde­d, find themselves a little taken aback at the end of such a display of energy (graphic), sometimes going to the point of preciousne­ss, to express the dark reverse side of all desire. (2008-09), for example, meticulous drawings of Snow White and Daisy touching their huge vaginas, which would inspire the semi-monumental walnut sculptures displayed in Hauser & Wirth in 2017. The exhibition is immaculate. It is impeccably hung and offers a clearly laid out itinerary, while the artist’s production is abundant. To « Self-Portrait » 1963. Encre sur papier. 28 × 22 cm. (Court. de l’artiste et Hauser & Wirth). Ink on paper never made because the University of Los Angeles, where he undertook a course in art and cinema, refused to provide him with the necessary means. Then we delight in the immense (1982) and (1984), disturbing by the barely channeled energy that emerges from them, and the ambiguity of the motifs. With its vulvas and its pair of giant testicles franticall­y traced near a nail and baby bottles, reminds us that organ connection­s can do without organs that desire is polymorphi­c and multifacet­ed, that everything circulates in it. The series revi- Penis Brush Paintings, Re-Drawn Baby World Sailor Meat Drawings Baby World Re-Drawn Sailor Meat Drawings Sailor Meat sits the filmed performanc­e (1975), which is better known, inspired by by Jean Genet and by an advertisem­ent for an erotic film by Russ Meyer. Here compulsive self-fellatio is allowed by an oversized member; there a character opening his loins, which become a vagina, which McCarthy will say is all about himself. We just regret that we have to open the catalogue to have access to views of the 1982 exhibition at the Exile Gallery: a dirty, disused industrial building, where drawings occupy almost all of the space. McCarthy was then far from being the darling of the market and institutio­ns he would become in the late 1990s. Apart from these powerful works, the rest of the graphic work could seem of less interest, if it didn’t shed new light on the artist’s entire career. Querelle de Brest Baby World Standing (1) winter 1980, P. 80. High Performanc­e, vol. 3, n° 3 and n° 4, autumn-

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