Emerging on the LA art scene in the early 1970s, McCarthy is known as one of the pioneers of performance art, whose work often includes the graphic depiction of taboo subjects and notions of transgression. His performance works eventually led to his use of video and installation as primary mediums. McCarthy has had a considerable impact on subsequent generations of Los Angeles artists, including Mike Kelley and Jason Rhoades.
The work in this exhibition, spanning the years 1972-2004, shows how while there is unity in the depraved subject matter in McCarthy’s work-scatology, sodomy, incest, blood and all other bodily fluids, and in general the decimation of innocence-it is the work’s formal properties that are accentuated through examining these three mediums. Each strategy selected to realize an idea is quintessential-medium becomes artwork. McCarthy’s Minimalist roots are ever-present in seemingly schizophrenic resolution of chaos and exactitude. These roots are exemplified in the immediacy and energy of the line in drawings-the overall-ness “actionist” trail of bodily fluids. Similarly, photographs emphasize the freezing / documentation of energy-the moving image rendered still after an exhaustive frame selection process. And sculptures are equally composed, contemplative works. There is often, as in 2002-2003’s Shit Face on a TV Cart, a perfect marriage of repulsion and beauty crystallized in exquisite formal composition.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Dwarf Heads (2000). Comprised of seven uniquely colored dwarf heads sitting on their packing crates, the piece suggests that Snow White-fed up with their sleepy, sneezy, bashful ways-has crated them up to ship them away, constructing crates around their shrunken bodies while humanely allowing their heads to remain free.