Friday, November 16, 2007

Paul McCarthy

“Dear visitors, please take into consideration that certain works of Paul McCarthy can be experienced as confrontational and explicit.” This sentence is what we first noticed in entering the exhibition. Indeed this artist was completely unknown to us and we were very surprised when we discovered the exhibition. McCarthy is a modern, impressive and multi-talented artist, whose works consist in paintings, films, pictures, modern creations made of fiberglass, metal, porcelain and so on. The artist tends to be quite shocking.
His works actually aim at confronting the visitors with cultural and social traumas. Most of his creations indeed express strong criticism of The American Dream and of our consumer society. An illustration of this is his representation of president Bush having sex with a pig or his criticism of pop-culture by his portrayal of Michael Jackson with feet resembling a penis. During the visit we were constantly confronted with disturbing and offputting pictures and films showing scenes of torture, rape and mutilation. All the figures represented looked more or less the same: they were humans with big bellies, big noses and big ears. They actually parodied Caribbean pirates, who appeared in violent and sexual activities.
The blood, symbolised by Ketchup, and the man’s urge-driven, libidinous personality are actually recurrent themes in many of the artist’s creations. McCarthy represents the human condition in a very negative and dark view and relates sexuality to everything.
What shocked us most is “The Garden” (1992), a monumental creation parodying a popular TV western series “Bonanza”. The scene shows two mechanical figures, standing in the forest, a father having sex with a tree and his son also having sex, but with a hole in the ground! You can easily imagine how surprised we were to discover this perverse and traumatising sexuality in a kind of “virgin forest”!
We both found that McCarthy was provocative, all his work being very shocking. However, it was interesting to see how it is possible to express such negative views of the current society through art. If we go a bit further than what we see, we realize that all his creations are not the result of madness but have a deeper meaning. For those who are sick and tired of classic art, this exhibition can be an alternative entertainment! The exhibition is currently being held at the S.M.A.K ( in Gent until February 2008.

Amandine and Aurore

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