Paul McCarthy: Painter

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Paul McCarthy Painter [still from performance/installation] (1995)

Someone has uploaded the full 50 minute video from Paul McCarthy’s 1995 performance/installation Painter

This is Ulrike Groos’ description of Painter1.

“The video sketches a stereotype of the artist genius as a backward, behaviourally-disturbed, infantile eccentric incapable of normal human interaction, who disregards norms and rules since his only means of expression is in the obsessive, impulsive pursuit of his art.”

As an aside: Painting has subsequently become a part of McCarthy’s practice, separate but related to his performance and installation work. Here’s an example.

Paul-McCarthy-Luncheon-on-the-Grass

Paul McCarthy ‘Luncheon on the Grass’ (Déjeuner sur l’herbs) (2014) acrylic paint, collage and soft toys on panel with gessoed canvas 243.8 x 335.3 x 8.9cm

Back in the 1995 performance, McCarthy’s painter chants, “de Kooning, de Kooning” as if hoping to channel something (genius? critical success? a place in the canon?) from the late Abstract Expressionist. While not quite pastiche, the paintings produced during McCarthy’s performance bare some resemblance to some of de Kooning’s work.

GBM1996.1_ph_web

Willem de Kooning Villa Borghese (1960) oil on canvas 203 x 178cm

The closest I’ve come to this kind of gestural abstraction was last year, doing an exercise from Wendy Ann Greenhalgh’s book Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing2 (in retrospect, this exercise also kicked off my interest in automatism). She suggests drawing with eyes closed, for between 10 – 20 minutes, on a “piece of paper … securely attached with masking tape to the floor, wall or table”:

“… with your eyes closed, you’re going to draw with your awareness on your whole body as you make marks. Drawing on a large scale will assist you in this, as drawing from one side of the paper to the other will require shifts in weight, movement of legs, back etc.”

I tried with acrylic paint and this was one of my results.

1512??

1512?? (2015) acrylic on cardboard 44.5 x 63.5cm

McCarthy’s Painter features a scene (at 34:36) with two art collectors describing their collecting history, which progresses chronologically from Constructivist El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) and Abstract Expressionist / Colour Field painter Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970), through to Sigmar Polke (1941 – 2010), Markus Lüpertz(b. 1941) and (occasional McCarthy collaborator) Mike Kelley (1954 – 2012). It’s a stereotypically on-trend collection for the time, but also offers some context for the paintings made by McCarthy’s character.

proun-30-t-1920-oil-on-canvas-500-x-620-mm-private-collection-lissitzky-el-1890-1941-2

El Lissitzky Proun 30-T (1920) oil on canvas 50 x 62cm

RothkoNo36BlackStripe

Mark Rothko No.36 (Black Stripe) (1958) oil on canvas 157.1 x 170.1cm

Sigmar-Polke-Laterna-Magica-1988–1996b

Sigmar Polke Laterna Magica (1988-96) artificial resin, lacquer, paint on transparent polyester fabric, verso/rector 134 × 154cm

MarkusLupertz

Markus Luepertz Donald Ducks Heimkehr (1963) oil on canvas 205.7 x 205.7cm

mike-kelley-10

Mike Kelley The Thirteen Seasons (Heavy on the Winter) #10: The Decay of Year End (1994) acrylic on wood panel 158.8 x 101.6cm


  1. Ulrike Groos, ‘Painter’, in Paul McCarthy: Videos 1970-1997, ed. Yilmaz Dziewior (Hamburg: Kunstverein in Hamburg/Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, 2003) p.145-6 
  2. Wendy Ann Greenhalgh Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing: A Creative Path to Awareness (Leaping Hare Press, 2015) p.32 
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One thought on “Paul McCarthy: Painter

  1. Pingback: “Artistic freedom” and political control | dailydaub

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