The genres he works with refer both to television and advertising and to the phenomena of Hollywood and Disney. In addition to this, McCarthy appropriates modern myths, introducing new critical content into existing forms. His interest lies in the deeper psychological strata of a culture which is caught in the standardized interplay of family, education and the media world, a culture which not infrequently loses sight of its own values and hence its focus. McCarthy's artistic method, which involves breaking taboos in precisely choreographed scenarios, is as challenging as it is intelligent and humorous. It was only with the awakening interest in a younger generation of West Coast artists that the work of this Los Angeles based artist began to be properly recognized by a wider public. In fact McCarthy has by now had a crucial influence on the artistic climate of the city for almost thirty years both as an artist and as a professor at UCLA. No doubt it was the ephemeral nature of the performances, videos and drawings he was creating in the 1970s and 80s that kept McCarthy's work for many years only really known to a small group of artists.
Paul McCarthy comes from a generation of artists who have responded to the Minimalism and Concept Art of the 1960s by developing an approach that seeks to reinstate the connection between artistic activity and social reality. Like his colleagues Dan Graham and Bruce Nauman - just slightly older than him - McCarthy uses his work to explore the relationship between the individual and society at large. But for McCarthy, artist-led spatial perception is not only a model for an open (Graham) or an existentially oppressive (Nauman) interface between the individual and society. In McCarthy's work blatant role-plays recharge familiar situations with new contents, both challenging and deconstructing them.
The exhibition Brain Box Dream Box is one over-arching continuum which contains not only two extensive video installations from 1996 and 2003 and four large-scale sculptural ensembles, but also around 200 drawings ranging from 1967 to the present day. Hitherto unknown - never having been shown in public - Paul McCarthy's breathtakingly multi-faceted drawings form the backbone of the concept of this exhibition. The drawings explain and elucidate, they take deliberate transgressions to an extreme, they confuse and obfuscate. Their expansive dimensions generate a mental tension that melds space and viewer into a single entity - into what might best be called a Brain Box Dream Box.
The exhibition is accompanied a programme of selected videos and a comprehensive publication with illustrations of all the works on show.