Paul McCarthy | “Piccadilly Circus”

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Artist Paul McCarthy describes the improvisational process and performances behind the video work Piccadilly Circus (2003). Filmed at an unoccupied London bank before being renovated by Hauser & Wirth gallery in 2002, and shot several months before the start of the Iraq War, the work features costumed players in the roles of President George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and the Queen Mum (in three versions).

Paul McCarthy’s video-taped performances and provocative multimedia installations lampoon polite society, ridicule authority, and bombard the viewer with a sensory overload of often sexually-tinged, violent imagery. With irreverent wit, McCarthy often takes aim at cherished American myths and icons—Walt Disney, the Western, and even the Modern Artist—adding a touch of malice to subjects that have been traditionally revered for their innocence or purity. Whether conflating real-world political figures with fantastical characters such as Santa Claus, or treating erotic and abject content with frivolity and charm, McCarthy’s work confuses codes, mixes high and low culture, and provokes an analysis of fundamental beliefs.

McCarthy’s current exhibition of drawings WHITE SNOW is on view at Hauser & Wirth in New York through December 24th, 2009. Works in the exhibition draw upon the 19th century German folk tale ‘Snow White’ (‘Schneewittchen’) as well as its modern interpretation by Walt Disney.

Paul McCarthy is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Transformation of the Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS.

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Doug Dunderdale. Editor: Lizzie Donahue & Paulo Padilha. Artwork Courtesy: Paul McCarthy.

Contributor
Wesley Miller is the associate curator at ART21. Miller co-curates the television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. He is also co-creator of the series New York Close Up.
  1. Chris Ronk says:

    Quite the disturbing piece. He captured George Bush perfectly.

    Reply

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