Domenico Olivero, blogger d'arte indipendente dal 2000
Life Cast - Paul McCarthy da Hauser & Wirth
Fortemente inquietante la nuova mostra di Paul McCarthy daHauser & Wirth, dove la sua cifra ironica prende una declinazione dalla forte valenza critica.
Also opening to the public on 10 May at Hauser & Wirth’s townhouse on 69th Street, ‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ (on view through 26 July) showcases highly developed themes and narratives coursing through and connecting different areas of McCarthy’s vast and complex practice. Here those themes are revealed through platinum silicone life casts – bravura replicas of the artist and Elyse Poppers, one of the key performers in his most recent projects ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ and ‘WS’.
‘Horizontal’ (2013) is a haunting depiction of the artist in uncanny full-scale replica, naked and prone in the gallery’s skylit ground floor south room. ‘Horizontal’ is a recent ‘repetition-variation’ of the 2005 work ‘Paul Dreaming, Vertical, Horizontal’, in which the artist’s own body was molded standing upright. Defined by gravity’s pull, that earlier sculpture was half-clothed and subtly distorted, its belly and penis distended outward. While ‘Paul Dreaming’ elicits thoughts of death, it also suggests that the artist is very much alive and a bit of a bearded buffoon in socks and shirt, but no pants. ‘Horizontal’ presents an altogether different avatar and, in the artist’s words, ‘makes no bones about the fact this is someone dead, without the mask of a clown or the possibility of sleep and dreaming’. Cast with McCarthy in a prone position, this morgue-like caricature strikes a subversive note in which absurdity and pathos echo one another.
‘Horizontal’ was presaged by one of McCarthy’s earliest exhibited works, the hollow metal ‘Dead H’ (1968). ‘Dead H’ – at first glance a Minimalist sculpture in the then-prevailing style – slyly mimics a dead body (and, coincidentally, a toppled twin of the first letter in Los Angeles’ famous Hollywood sign).
An ironic comment upon vanitas and the ambitions and fables of art and culture, McCarthy’s ‘Dead H’ is a fallen hero. Forty-five years later, the artist’s study of the body as a vehicle for liberation and exploitation continues full force. Works on view at 69th Street also include ‘Rubber Jacket Horizontal, Rubber H’, a poignant fragment from the life casting activities of the past year that captures a sunken and hollow portion of the artist’s own torso.
‘Paul McCarthy: Life Cast’ also presents four female figures of uncanny verisimilitude. All are life casts of Elyse Poppers achieved through a series of painstaking processes at the leading edge of special effects technology. ‘T.G. Awake’ (T.G. is an acronym for ‘That Girl’ and refers to another feminine icon, aspiring actress namesake of a hit 1960s situation comedy) is comprised of three life-sized casts of the actress in similar sitting positions, with her legs spread open to varying degrees and eyes cast in different directions. Together these static variations reference the magical effect by which a series of still images can be joined together to become film. ‘T.G. Awake’ found its origins in drawings that McCarthy made of his wife Karen in the 1960s and relates to the first White Snow pencil drawings of 2009. The sculpture ‘T.G. Asleep’ presents the same woman prone, her body curved and hands cupped, a counterpoint to the dead figure of ‘Horizontal’.
The exhibition also includes ‘That Girl’, a four-channel video installation based in the process by which ‘T.G. Awake’ and ‘T.G. Asleep’ were achieved. Capturing the molding process, the model’s live movement studies, and the documentation of these through deliberately positioned cameras, this work brings viewers into the action through which the sculptures on view were made. ‘Life casting liberates the literal through a kind of unifying monotone,’ McCarthy has said. ‘It creates a different representation of the original thing that lets me explore where reality and abstraction intersect’.
Mentre si conferma nella sua cifra più classica presso lo spazio di 511 West 18th Street
On 20 June, Hauser & Wirth’s 18th street space will re-open with the third of the gallery’s spring 2013 exhibitions: ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a collaboration between Paul McCarthy and his son Damon McCarthy. On view through 26 July, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a large and complex installation and video projection work originally inspired by both Nicholas Ray’s 1955 classic Hollywood film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and the furious rumors that swirled around the off-set relationships between its director and his stars James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. This densely layered opus confronts definitions of power and role-playing, and expands far beyond the ’50s movie and related legends. Ultimately, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ is a meditation upon the archetypes and Oedipal tensions that define family dynamics as they have been played out in private homes, in the evolution of art history, and in the role of the entertainment industry in shaping our expectations and self-images.
At 18th Street, visitors will discover the gallery dimly lit and transformed into a hullabaloo of clanging and clamor, yelling and coital grunting. This barrage of sound envelops two large stage sets installed in the soaring space. One of these is a full-scale two-story house constructed by the McCarthys as a stand-in for Nicholas Ray’s now infamous Bungalow 2 at the Chateau Marmont. For James Dean and the 16-year old Wood, both of whom hailed from unhappy families, Ray’s cottage became a surrogate household with the director as its unconventional patriarch. Rumors abound of quasi-incestuous affairs between Ray and his actors, of swimming pool orgies and champagne bathtub freak-outs. It is these scenarios that are the basis for ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’. On the back of the two-story wooden house, a replica of the Hollywood sign is mounted – upside down. The second stage set is a replica of the living room staircase in the home of Jim Stark, the central character played by James Dean in the original ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and by James Franco (who also plays Dean) in ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’.This set is turned on its side, with props and the residue of filming strewn exactly where they were left at the end of shooting.
Video projections of scenes are presented on and around these sets. In those projections, Paul McCarthy and his actors play hybrids of both Nick Ray’s cinematic characters and the actors who performed as those characters, and segue into universal familial roles – father, mother, daughter, and son. Thus McCarthy plays both Nick Ray and the Father of Jim Stark, as well as the archetype of Father; James Franco is both Jim and James Dean; Elyse Poppers is Judy and the actress who portrayed her, Natalie Wood, as well as the embodiment of Daughter. Jay Yi appears as both Plato and Sal Mineo, the actor who played Plato in the original movie. And Suzan Averitt performs as the Mothers of both Jim Stark and Natalie Wood. With its mind-bending series of doubles, binaries, and inversions, ‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ presents perversions of interchangeable roles and fetish relationships. In the process, it investigates parallel icons in the history of art – from Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ to Vito Acconci’s infamous performances – and plays with the psychology of the family.
‘Rebel Dabble Babble’ reflects an important shift in Paul McCarthy’s engagement with the fantastical tropes of such bodies of work as White Snow, Pirates and Pinocchio, toward more modern and thoroughly American 20th century pop culture mythologies. As with the two sculpture exhibitions presented by Hauser & Wirth New York this spring, this ambitious and challenging tour de force delves deeper into the structures by which fiction successfully presents itself as reality.