ZURICH.- Hauser & Wirth
presents an exhibition of over 60 photographs by Paul McCarthy. This selection, many of which have only been seen before in publications, is taken from the artists large group of more than 120 photographs, collectively known as PROPO.
McCarthys debased and dirtied photographic subjects have a unique history. They began as props in McCarthys early performances, and in the early Eighties, they were packed into suitcases and trunks, which were then stacked on a table and re-invented as the sculpture Assortment, The Trunks, Human Object and PROPO Photographs (1972 2003). The lids of the cases remained unopened until the early Nineties when McCarthy individually photographed each of the props, creating PROPO, a collection of documentation-style photographs and a record of his dark humour and subversive social critique. Set against vividly coloured backgrounds, these grimy objects line the walls of Hauser & Wirths ground floor gallery, presented as proud emblems, despite their sodden and soiled appearance. The PROPO photographs highlight McCarthys on-going re-visitation of his prolific oeuvre and his distinctive approach to his works: they are in a constant state of transformation.
McCarthy began his live performances in the late Sixties. Seen initially by only a handful of people, these were raucous, riotous parodies of society, relationships, sex and pop culture, which tested the physical and mental boundaries of both the viewer and the artist. Videos of two of McCarthys most well-known early performances, Sailors Meat (1975) and Tubbing (1975), as well as photographs taken during the performances, will be on view in the basement gallery of Hauser & Wirth Zürich.
Between 1972 1983, I did a series of performances which involved masks, bottles, pans, uniforms, dolls, stuffed animals, etc. After the performances these objects were either left behind or they were collected and stored in suitcases and trunks to be used in future performances. In 1983, the closed suitcases and trunks containing these performance objects were stacked on a table and exhibited as sculpture. In 1991, I opened the suitcases and trunks photographing each item. The group of photographs in their entirety was titled PROPO.