Lot 92: Paul McCarthy (b. 1945)
Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale
May 9, 2006
New York, NY, USA
Chocolate Silicone Blockhead
35 3/4 x 43 1/4 x 27 1/4 (91 x 110 x 69 cm.)
Executed in 1999-2000. This work is from an edition of six.
Paul McCarthy built his reputation with actions that undermined the heroism of the Abstract Expressionist painters through abject, slapstick-inflected performances, such as Face Painting-Floor White Line. McCarthy's work since that time has continued to develop this critique of masculinity through the giddy topsy-turvy humor of the carnival, drawing from a long standing tradition that includes the puppet violence of Punch and Judy.
Beginning to address the subject of the preternatural adolescent, with the character Alfred E. Newman in 1991's Bossy Burger, McCarthy continued to work with this archetype in Pinocchio Pipenose Householddilemma. The work marked the first appearance of the wooden boy in McCarthy's oeuvre.
Chocolate Silicone Blockhead heralds a new formal seriousness with which McCarthy approaches this subject. Building upon his interest in merging the cute innocence of cartoons with ribald and libidinous humor, McCarthy forces us to read the double entendre Pinocchio's growing nose. From the epithet in the title to the base connotation of the brown coloration and the uses of the material in sex toys, Chocolate Silicone Blockhead provides us with multiple layers of meaning and serious joke telling. The disjuncture of the smooth Disneyesque rendering of the bodies of the two figures with the rough cast of the wooden head, provides an additional visual dynamic that elevates its origins.
Signature for McCarthy, authority is always ripe for challenge. "The dice are always loaded for the patriachical pairs who populate McCarthy's work and who evince a strained camaraderie in which the simmering brutality is sublimated as melodramatic kitsch." (J. Avgikos, Artforum, January 2003, p.138).
McCarthy's work continues to provoke unsettling questions about our familial relations that can only be answered with laughter, here about the problem of being a dumb liar. "the nervous, the bawdy, the rictus giggle of disgust, the raucous full-throttle guffaw as foreign to galleries and museums as it is to churches and mortuaries." (R. Rugoff, "Mr. McCarthy's Neighborhood", Paul McCarthy, 1996, p. 86).
Hauser and Wirth, Zürich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Artist or Maker: Paul McCarthy (b. 1945)