Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: paul mccarthy

Father Figure

Anxieties about modern American manhood played out in the bedrooms of little girls

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Martin Kersels, Tumble Room, 2001, installation, courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes and Nash

“A crock of shit” is how Mike Kelley once described what he called the “modernist cult of the child.”[1] He was talking about the idealization of children – of childhood, rather – over the past two centuries, since Romanticism exalted it as a pure state, uncorrupted by the mores and hang-ups of culture and society. In visual art, this was manifested in the self-consciously childlike styles of Picasso, Miró and Klee, and the later affectation of children’s art by Dubuffet, Jorn, and countless others who, for associated reasons, also fetishized the ‘primitive’ and the ‘insane’. “Where do the children play?” asked Cat Stevens in 1970, testifying to the persistence of that myth of purity even through late ‘60s counterculture, the era of the Flower Children.[2]  Read the rest of this entry »

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John Knuth, Angeles Crest, 2015

Ultimately, it’s about God, or at least a whiff of the divine. And also about not getting shit on your hands.

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On the Grotesque

Basil Wolverton, Heap, 1955
© The Wolverton Estate. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

The grotesque got its name by mistake. When, one day in fifteenth-century Rome, a young man fell into a hole in a hillside, he assumed he’d discovered a Roman grotto. He fetched a lantern and found wild frescoes over the grotto’s walls: half-human, half animal figures, with legs and arms transforming into curling vines or ornamental volutes. In fact, he had stumbled upon Nero’s buried Villa Aurea, the raised floor level giving the rooms a grotto-like appearance. Nevertheless, the term “grotteschi” stuck as a label for this newly discovered style that radically dissented from the classical restraint to which the Renaissance had hitherto adhered. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul McCarthy

The Box, Los Angeles

The doubling begins immediately. An exhibition across town, organized by MOCA and James Franco, called “Rebel,” themed (incredibly) around Franco’s resemblance to James Dean, finds its evil twin in “Rebel Dabble Babble.” It began with Franco inviting Paul McCarthy to collaborate on a project based on Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and ended up with McCarthy and his son Damon creating house-sized sets in their studio, staging auditions, filming, and performing in scenes with actors (who played hybrids of cinematic characters and the actors who originally played them) and, ultimately, shooting scenes for a pornographic version of Rebel Without a Cause featuring an actor named James Deen, who, like Franco, is a dead ringer for its original tragic star. A watered-down version of the project remains in MOCA’s exhibition, but at The Box it unfurls into full exhaustive glory. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy Loses his Shit

‘An inflatable dog turd the size of a house has blown away from a modern art exhibition in a Swiss museum before bringing down an electricity line and smashing a greenhouse window.’ The Telegraph, London, 12th August 2008

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