Paul McCarthy


Paul McCarthy
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Paul McCarthy

Ralph Rugoff

ISBN 9780714868936

Los-Angeles-based artist Paul McCarthy (b.1945) creates Disneyesque installations, sculptures of animal/vegetable/human hybrids and slapstick performances in a purge of a national subconscious. The psycho-sexual desires and anxieties induced by the media and the built environment of contemporary America emerge in his collisions of plastic prosthetic limbs and condiments that stand in for bodily fluids. 

These works have been variously deployed: through live actions, often documented on video, and more recently in outsized figures and artificial rural environments, combined in overtly sexual ways. McCarthy's work echoes that of European artists such as Joseph Beuys or the Viennese Aktionistes, but gives 'action art' a postmodern twist. This is the first comprehensive survey of over twenty years of work by a profoundly influential artist whose work is in the collections of the world's most important museums.

Ralph Rugoff, curator, critic and author of Circus Americanus, has created an important critical framework for contemporary West Coast art. In the Survey he identifies key themes in McCarthy's oeuvre and sets them within a broader cultural context. Expert on live arts and co-editor of Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Kristine Stiles talks with the artist about his performances. Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, celebrated for his writings in Flash Art and his curating of public art projects in Italy, focuses on McCarthy's Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma, a nineteenth-century tale told in a post-Disney world.

For the Artist's Choice, McCarthy has spliced together various fragments from Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, creating his own non-linear rendition of this classic existential novel. The book also includes interviews and previously unpublished notes and poems towards sculptures, performances and videos. Finally renewed art critic and historian Robert Storr investigates how McCarthy's work has evolved over the past two decades.


The Author

Ralph RugoffRalph Rugoff is the Director of the Hayward Gallery in London. In 2005, he won the inaugural Ordway Prize in the category of arts writer and/or curator from the Penny McCall Foundation in New York.

Kristine Stiles is Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and has contributed to numerous books on contemporary art and performance, including Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object (1997) and Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings (2013). Robert Storr is Dean of the Yale University School of Art. He has directed the Venice Biennale in 2007 and was Senior Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1990 to 2002.


Reviews, News & Interviews:

McCarthy teaches us to acknowledge that we are mortal and split by speaking. His work is death (of the ego) and abject resurrection. -Michael Cohen, Flash Art

The combination of intelligent analysis, personal insight, useful facts and plentiful pictures is a superb format invaluable for specialists but also interesting for casual readers. It makes these books a must for the library of anyone who cares about contemporary art. -Flash Art