In Pictures | Paul McCarthy: PROPO
— August 30, 2012 —
In Pictures is a still and moving image gallery for significant works, events and places
Touch Up, 1991 © Paul McCarthy, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & WirthBorn in Utah, USA, in 1945, Paul McCarthy is widely regarded as one of today’s most important and influential American artists. Primarily known today for his work with video and sculpture, McCarthy also staged a number of riotous, and often disturbing, performances in the late Sixties, many of which were designed to test the mental and physical limits of the audience. Through these works, McCarthy explores the themes of sex, relationships, society, and popular culture, and in particular, the process and actions that occur in everyday life, and the results and consequences of these actions.
For his latest exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, the artist presents PROPO, a series of over 60 photographs, many of which have never been seen before. These haunting photographs, selected from a larger series, document a bizarre inventory of objects, including stuffed animals, dolls, bottles, masks and uniforms, which were originally used by the artist as props in a series of early performances staged between 1972-1983. After the performances took place, many of the objects were stored in suitcases until 1983 when the artist stacked the closed suitcases on a table, the contents remaining unseen by viewers, to create the sculpture entitled 'Assortment, The Trunks, Human Object and PROPO Photographs’.
"McCarthy staged a number of riotous, and often disturbing, performances in the late Sixties, many of which were designed to test the mental and physical limits of the audience"
After the sculpture was dismantled, the suitcases remained unopened until the early nineties, when McCarthy individually photographed each of the items that had been stored inside. The resulting catalogue of images that document the dirty, sodden objects, not only presents an interesting social critique, but also emphasises the artist’s own sinister sense of humour. Despite the dirty appearance of the objects, the photographs are proudly presented against the pristine gallery backdrop, creating an unnerving juxtaposition between the two, which in turn further highlights the eerie nature of the exhibition.
The exhibition runs from September 1 at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich.