Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Who is your favorite living American artist? Bruce Nauman. Okay, second? Paul McCarthy. And maybe David Hockney... But Nauman and McCarthy are king and king of influence. Both are multidisciplinary, use the body as material, and often antagonize their audience. Nauman is a polyglot of materials, McCarthy a multilinguist of tones, styles, and attitudes. Nauman comes from the heavenly realm of ideas and body-in-space, McCarthy from the dirty soil of experience and body-in-excrement. Milan Kundera defines "kitsch" as "denial of shit," Koons defines it as knick-knack and tchotchkes; McCarthy swallows both ideas and produces filthy playthings.

For Alfred Barr, Apollo and Dionysus survived in Mondrian (and others) and Pollock respectively. We agree, although no artist is distinctly one or the other - it's more like a Kinsey scale.

Still, Roberta Smith said in a recent review of the show "Yes, Bruce Nauman:"

"It begins with a juxtaposition of early body-oriented videos by Mr. Nauman and Paul McCarthy, who, quickly following Mr. Nauman’s lead, was in his studio in Los Angeles videotaping home-alone performance pieces by 1970. The contrast is pure Apollo-versus-Dionysus. In 'Flesh to White to Black to Flesh' from 1967, the lean, handsome Mr. Nauman is all classical mandarin restraint, as he sits in a chair, methodically smearing his torso with white, then black body color.

On the opposite monitor, the pudgy Mr. McCarthy lies face down on the floor wallowing in a thick trail of white paint, his interest in a generally gross Expressionism-in-the-round apparent. Mr. Nauman tends to leave Expressionism to others. For his 1987 video 'No, No New Museum (Clown Torture Series),' which is in this show, he hired an actor to humiliate himself..."

On the other hand, Jerry Saltz counted McCarthy among the "abject-meets-the-Apollonian" artists in the Whitney show "Full House."

About 25 drawings at Nyehaus, mostly from the early 1990s, suggest how Dionysian McCarthy is. They are filthy, populated by assholes, shit, anal sex, and boners. McCarthy works from the ID! He draws like a bad kid, following a stream of consciousness, evading censorship, filtering, or regulation. His Sharpie scrawls, scribbles, and streaks - scatological shit-smearing, Saul Steinberg with a runaway libido and lockstep fixation on the Ass. Ranting and muttering! The titles include "Ass Hole," "Daddy Fucked You," and "Black Blood" (though most are untitled).

But then we start to see the strategist. Much like Richard Prince (is he your favorite artist?), McCarthy uses styles and images from editorial cartoons. In one, he collages the cartoon source to the paper, copies the drawing, and alters the caption, "Well so much for me."

This appropriation is a conceptual, methodical (i.e. Apollonian) approach to the drawings, counter to the more ejaculatory works (i.e. Dionysian).

We also notice a "girl" with braids - recalling the star of his collaborative video, "Heidi" (1993). Either he is strategically appropriating himself, or Heidi has planted herself in his subconscious, and emerges as a McCarthy icon. So is he a strategist, planning meaningful appropriations? Then how do we negotiate the seeming expressive impulsivity of the drawings?

We think that McCarthy actually is a strategist making work about expressive impulsivity. In "Full House," an early video showed him swinging a wet canvas around the studio. This is a conceptual (calculated) statement about gesture (noncalculated). So the seemingly Dionysian drawings are actually about Dionysian drawing, making them more Apollonian.

Wow what a post!

Actually Nauman is from Indiana and McCarthy is from . . . UTAH!
Utah?! Must be something in the (salt)water...

If people in Los Angeles are Los Angelinos and in New York, New Yorkers - what are people in Utah? Utahvites?
1. That Ellsworth Kelly show is heavan, a TOP RATE scoundrel!
There is nothing there! and everything.
2. "Borat" is HILARIOUS.
3. The new cover of Vogue is a hoot. I want to be the first man on the cover of Vogue, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!!! Nuclear!! PLEASE!
4. I changed my mind and I want to go to the Academy Awards but I think they should also include the theatre, like best play, etc. Maybe there should be a general academy of US culture east coast westcoast.
5. Oprah+Nauman!! No one has gotten past Nauman. (I pre-date reality TV, so maybe me!!!)
6. POLKE is fantastic and those flippy ghosts, they are SCARY.
7. I like the Japanese woman in the mental institution who who shows with Robert Miller, um...whats her name? she did this great mirror installation...
8. I saw the Longo show and it was lovely but I wonder if he uses photography or is it free hand?
9.Louise Bourgois! WOW
10. Juan Usle, ...Mathew Barney is incredible, LOVE his work. I thought he was Michelangelo,and am not so sure that he isn't.
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