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Lot 99: Paul McCarthy (b. 1945)

First Open

by Christie's

March 10, 2011

New York, NY, USA

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Description: Paul McCarthy (b. 1945)
Steven
silicone and wood crate
57 x 32 x 25½ in. (144.8 x 81.3 x 64.8 cm.)
Executed in 2007. This work is number one from an edition of six plus two artist's proofs.

Notes: Paul McCarthy is one of the most influential artists working in America today. Initially known for his l works in which he shocked viewers with his overtly sexual performances and installations, his later work has involved exploring the myths and stereotypes in American popular culture. McCarthy lives and works in Los Angeles, a city that thrives on the selling of dreams and fantasies, and he finds a rich seam of inspiration in the consumer icons from the entertainment industry and how these traverse a darker side of American life.

McCarthy plays out the allegories of a beloved and immediately recognizable cast of characters ranging from Santa Claus and Pinocchio to Mr. Potato Head and Popeye. Seemingly recognizable characters are subtly changed or adulterated to produce works that become unsettling and unnerving. With his arms outstretched, seemingly lost and searching his way through the world, the figure in Steven seems at odds with the happy-go-lucky figures taken from American childhood memories. This tension between what the eye sees and what the mind knows is at the very heart of McCarthy's work. Prevalent in the work of many artists of his generation, McCarthy has strived to constantly update these ideas with new treatments and materials. His later work begins to examine the nature of European fairy-tales and the central-European personification of purity, which relates back to McCarthy's earlier twisted parodies of Heidi and other clichéd Swiss characters.

Over the duration of his career Paul McCarthy has become one of the most perceptive commentators of modern culture and society. The artist augments perceived norms of contemporary culture, taking what is already there and exaggerating their existing, and sometimes subtle, perversities. The true natures of his figures reveal themselves slowly and unexpectedly and the experience becomes all the more intense and rewarding because of that.


Provenance: Hauser & Wirth, London

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