Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy

Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy: Caribbean Pirates

"Crazed, inventive, obscene and often very funny… played out in weird costumes and with rumbustious, clownish fervour." The Guardian

Los Angeles Premiere
Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

This multi-screen installation offers Los Angeles audiences their first view of videos from Caribbean Pirates, the McCarthy studio’s sprawling survey of the pirate figure in American popular culture. As originally shown in 2005 at Munich’s Haus der Kunst, the manic, typically bawdy work collaged video projections with large-scale sculptures, props, and film sets — including a full-scale pirate frigate and a 1970s-era houseboat. Different incarnations of this scabrous examination of the pirate as a symbol of invasion, plunder and depravity have since been presented at several other major European venues to vast critical and popular acclaim. The site-specific installation of Caribbean Pirates at REDCAT marks the first time that this work is being shown without its related sculptural elements.

In person: Paul McCarthy, Damon McCarthy

Paul McCarthy (born 1945) is widely considered to be one of the most influential and groundbreaking artists of today. Using the language and imagery of the all-pervasive American consumer culture he grew up with, his work distorts and mutates the familiar into the disturbing and carnivalesque. His early work was heavily influenced by Viennese Actionism, seeking to break the limitations of painting by using the body as a paintbrush or even canvas; later, he incorporated bodily fluids or food into his works, and explored film, video, performance and multi-media installation.

Having first studied art at the University of Utah, McCarthy obtained a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, and then received a MFA from USC where he has studied film, video and art. Upon graduation, in the early 1970s, he first became known for his visceral performances and film works. In 1982, he was invited to teach video, installation, and art history at UCLA. During the 1990s he extended his practice into stand alone sculptural figures, installations and large sculptures, animatronic and/or inflatable. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Tate Modern, London (2003); Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York (2002); Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Zurich (2001); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2000); and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2000). He currently lives and works in Altadena, CA.

Throughout his career, Paul McCarthy has produced publications, at times inviting other artists to collaborate or contribute, and has curated exhibitions. Since 2000, he has collaborated closely with his son, CalArts graduate and artist Damon McCarthy (b. 1973) on a number of complex performative video installations, such as Piccadilly Circus and Bunker Basement (both 2003), F-Fort Party (2005) and Caribbean Pirates (2001-2005). The latter project (featured at REDCAT) was inspired by Damon Mc Carthy’s suggestion to use the Disney ride Pirates of the Carribbean as a visual impetus. According to the two artists, the pirate theme is treated as a metaphor for US invasion and occupation of foreign lands.

“This gargantuan project occupied the artist and his son, Damon McCarthy, and a huge crew of actors, builders, mechanics and film personnel over several years. The performance action that took place on the set included blood-gushing animatronic limb amputations, prosthetic nose-severings, belly-bursting tropical diseases and gang-bangs. Not to mention the catering-size cans of Hershey's Chocolate Sauce drooled and spattered absolutely everywhere. It's only chocolate, you might say (like the marzipan turds in Pasolini's Salo), and the action may be so knockabout as to be unbelievable, but this is still a theatre of cruelty, in the Hollywood Jacobean mode.” -- Adrian Searle, The Guardian

“Maybe for McCarthy the world is made up of myths alone -- myths which continually allow us to come up with new conceptions of ourselves, to celebrate images, to give legitimacy to greatness, dreams, happiness, and the darkness that surrounds us.

"Hollywood & Disney -- both are the epitome of myth generators: they use them and create them. McCarthy’s show does not conceal the fascination that such myths hold -- just the opposite -- he indulges them. But then comes the horrible reversal -- the myth is destroyed by its own means: the curved, rakish pirate hat becomes the penis hat, the smiling eye grows into something phallic... Illuminated by its own light and glitter, Hollywood is meant to shine and be sullied at the same time; the skills and constructs of the dream factory are put on display and then pulled apart. What the viewer sees is the other side, where the darkest depths come to life and to light. The pink pig still grins blissfully even though it is kept alive artificially, by human effort alone. Perversions and grotesqueries appear everywhere -- the fascination and the humor are just as audible and tangible as the malice.

"The content of McCarthy’s large-scale performances, created with his son Damon, are in the lineage of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Pasolini’s Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, yet the action is abstract; barely comprehensible... What ends up being shown is a strange mixture of B-movie gore, absurdity, inanity, excess, trash -- huge bellies stuck onto bodies, actors wearing silly, round noses; mayonnaise, ketchup and other sauces just as important as the (naked) bodies.” -- Emma Nielson, Pulse Berlin

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud

Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels.

Associated Images: 

THU 11/20
8:30 pm
FRI 11/21
8:30 pm
SAT 11/22
8:30 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff