Sunday, 11 December 2011

‘The King, The Island, The Train, The House, The Ship’ by Paul McCarthy

Verdict: Give it a miss
Where: Hauser & Wirth, Mayfair
When: 16 November 201114 January 2012

What is it?  Photographs and sculptures with nudity and sexuality being a central theme, with references to politics and pop culture.  The installations are in two locations within walking distance of each other, there is supposedly a third location outdoors in a public square but the square was closed on the weekend and I couldn’t see any sculptures inside.

My opinion: I knew nothing of this artist beforehand but as I walked into the first building on Piccadily, the sign warning of graphic content set some expectations.  The building itself is a magnificent aged and impressive building; it makes you appreciate the power of art that it is able to command such great exhibition spaces, in Mayfair no less – Haunch of Venison being another similarly grand venue.  But unfortunately for me, the grandeur of the building was the only unexpected pleasure.

It’s clear that the works are designed to shock with significant nudity on display, and though shock is a legitimate, and potentially lucrative, way of making a statement (just ask Damien Hirst) it just doesn’t work here.  Nudity without artistic merit is just pornography.

The centrepiece of this exhibit is an installation called ‘The King’ that has a nude and disfigured model of the artist sitting on a throne with pews arranged in front of it so you can sit and ‘gaze in wonderment’.  It’s not the most subtle of statements but just doesn’t work; if Paul McCarthy was a household name then he might be able to pull off the satire, but I found it overly pretentious.

The second location on Savile Row has mechanized sculptures of George W. Bush sodomising pigs with a rhythmic motion - no subtlety here either.  Firstly, targeting Bush is getting very passé considering he isn’t president any more and secondly, he’s an easy target that everyone has picked on before and this fact reduces the impact of sculpture.  That said the motion sensors that mean the heads follow you round as you circle the installation, is extremely creepy.

I was expecting to be shocked and that never materialised; nor was I impressed. Thumbs down all round.

No comments:

Post a Comment