Art e-Facts 71 (Christmas Special)


Christmas has been a recurrent theme in the work of California based artist Paul McCarthy. Works including; “Santa with Butt Plug” and “Santa Chocolate Shop” have examined and skewered the American idolised vision of Santa Claus.

Since the late 1960s, McCarthy has pushed the boundaries of taboo through the media of performance art, sculpture, and video. In his early performance works, the artist used his own body as material, testing his physical limits amidst a mess of American condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup. His attack on the values of the American way of life and on a society manipulated by the media continued into the 80s, when he began to produce mechanical sculptures that gradually replaced his own presence in the gallery. In the 90s, his ever expansive installations continued to break taboos in a theatrically drastic way, further exploring issues of violence and pornography, masturbation, birth, and death.

In “Santa Chocolate Shop” first shown in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, McCarthy achieves the ultimate dismantling of sentimental notions of childhood innocence. The installation includes a lopsided plywood house and a life-size video projection of Santa “making chocolate” into the mouth of a prone little helper while men in crotch less animal suits scurry around the workshop.

No stranger to food in his art, McCarthy produced 10 inch chocolate figurines based on his sculpture, Santa With Butt Plug, a 24 metre high inflatable public sculpture. He transformed the Maccarone gallery in New York’s West Village into Peter Paul Chocolates, a fully functioning chocolate factory, turning out 1,000 ‘Santa With Tree And Bell’ chocolate figurines each day.

2 thoughts

  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA thats so hilarious (santa with butt plug). God sake i would never think of that. even though you wouldn’t think they wouldn’t go together… the kinda do which is quite…disturbing

  2. i have to say, i was there at the Whitney Biennial … i had NO idea what to think … i absolutely had to go in and i have to admit, it was probably the most memorable piece for me, although for me it was the disturbing humor that branded more than anything else … i couldn’t get any deeper than the surface concepts, the tipped house, strange videos with Santa Claus, pornesque characters saying ‘i like chocolate’ … a special little nightmare … i kept taunting the other museum-goers on tour with me that day w/ the darkly delicious ‘i like chocolate’ over + over again … i couldn’t help myself … it was unlike any other art installation i had seen at the time … but the work directly permeated and struck a chord with me … like a bad b-movie that you rent + want to shut off half-way, but you can’t stop watching … intriguing, bizarre, wrong in so many ways + yet … as i said … perhaps the only piece i can recall from that day back in 1997 …

    a christmas special indeed

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