Paul McCarthy
Head Shop / Shop Head Works 1966-2006

October 13, 2007 / February 17, 2008

S.M.A.K. Ghent

Paul McCarthy is considered one of the most important living artists. His direct and confrontational approach has given him an exceptional influence over a young generation of artists. He has worked in a wide range of media since the late 60s, but it is only since the nineties that his work has become known to a broader art public. Over the last few years he has created a number of large-scale works that have been shown extensively in Europe

Paul McCarthy sketches an unambiguous image of the ‘Western way of life’. This refers both to the global ‘West’ – the Western world – and to the more specific setting of the West Coast of America or, even more specifically, Hollywood. The following characterisation does not pull its punches: ‘Paul McCarthy is dirty and rotten, sexually hung-up and likes ketchup.’

Although McCarthy makes installations, sculptures, drawings and videos, he is essentially a performance artist. His breakthrough came at the time when he was recording his performances on several cameras and exhibiting them as videos. McCarthy is an artist who does not move boundaries, but goes far beyond them. Counter to the modernist pursuit of reduction and purity, he sets out a baroque stream of images which nevertheless always retain an astonishing consistency and quality.

There is an odd antithesis in his work: on the one hand intense and anarchistic form, on the other formal, intellectual content. In its well-aimed sledgehammer blows, McCarthy’s work summons up a mixture of anxiety, disgust and roars of laughter. His work is a highly-charged reflection on developments taking place in Western society, whose underbelly he mercilessly exposes.

The retrospective is presented together with the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and AroS in Aarhus. Especially for this exhibition in Ghent, McCarthy has made new works

 
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