Paul McCarthy
American visual artist



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Paul McCarthy
American visual artist
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More about Paul McCarthy

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If you’re of the mindset that the stuffy world of art needs more irreverent pranksters, you’re going to like Paul McCarthy. From bizarrely extreme performances, to disturbing installation works and outrageous public sculptures, McCarthy pokes fun at American popular culture and consumerism whilst shocking and entertaining his audience. Here are our favorite highlights from his very strange career:

  • A 1976 performance piece called Class Fool had McCarthy banging about a UC Davis classroom so violently he made himself dizzy and caused injuries to himself whilst also splattering ketchup everywhere, ruining the room. He then vomited and stuffed a Barbie doll up his rear end. The performance then ended because nobody wanted to watch it anymore, obviously.
  • A public sculpture of Santa Claus he made in the Netherlands drew outrage from some, but is now called affectionately by many the “Buttplug Gnome.”
  • Another large public sculpture he made looks like an enormous (51 foot tall!), pile of poop.  Aptly titled Complex Shit, and later, Complex Pile. In 2008 it blew away from its site in Switzerland, brought down a power line, and caused other property damage.  No one seemed to mind, as we were treated to amazing newspaper headlines like, “Turd on the Run” and, “Complex Shit Wreaks Havoc in Berne.” 
  • Just last year the fecal bounce house-looking monstrosity got free again, this time during a storm in Hong Kong.  Our favorites from the more recent incident include, “McCarthy Drops a Giant Poop on Hong Kong,” and “Sudden Downpour Takes the Wind out of Poop Art.” 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy (born August 4, 1945) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California.


McCarthy was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1945. He studied art at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and later continued to study at the University of Utah until 1969. He went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute receiving a BFA in painting. In 1972 he studied film, video, and art at the University of Southern California receiving an MFA. From 1982 to 2002 he taught performance, video, installation, and performance art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. McCarthy currently works mainly in video and sculpture.

Originally formally trained as a painter, McCarthy's main interest lies in everyday activities and the mess created by them. Much of his work in the late 1960s, such as Mountain Bowling (1969) and Hold an Apple in Your Armpit (1970), are similar to the work of Happenings founder Allan Kaprow, with whom McCarthy had a professional relationship.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Paul McCarthy.