Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Paul McCarthy "Train, Mechanical" (2003-2010)

The grotesque sculpture is a robotic double image of George W. Bush copulating with a pig, just the sort of shock-schlock that McCarthy has made his stock in trade. While I generally have no patience for any of his slovenly garbage, this new work may well be a masterpiece of political agitprop: an appalling satire that captures as no other the revulsion and rage engendered worldwide by the long, dark tenure of our 43rd president. The spectacle consists of a row of motorized, life-sized animatrons of Bush and hogs, their mechanical armatures covered with pink fleshlike resin. The Bush figures' hips pump as their oversized heads turn from side to side, periodically spinning full circle, "Exorcist"-style, lips parting in orgasmic reverie. The daisy chain continues as the pigs in turn are penetrated in the ear by piglets. The ghastly contraption is set atop a metal frame containing the computerized machine that automates it. No need to belabor a close reading here: the figures, self-absorbed in bestial depravity, represent the utter debasement of statesmanship, democracy, and truth that marked the Bush years. The likelihood that McCarthy's sculpture will prompt future art historians to re-examine the political acts that fostered its creation is priceless. McCarthy's obscene clownery pollutes the art world, posing as critique while feeding the market's maw. But in Bush the artist has found a subject appropriate to his vulgar form. In many countries the portrayal of a (former) president astride the rear of a corpulent hog would be criminal. But the U.S. embraces such insults to decorum as long as they sell, and rest assured some wealthy collector can be expected to pay the $5 million dollars that L & M is asking for the unique piece. - Jason Edward Kaufman

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