Created during a series of freely improvised performances between Paul McCarthy and the German actress Lilith Stangenberg, ‘A&E Drawing Session, Santa Anita’ comprises a group of twelve important new works on paper in which themes of violence and power coalesce. In keeping with McCarthy’s multidisciplinary oeuvre, the drawings have evolved out of the artist’s current film project ‘NV Night Vader’ (2019 – ), based on Liliana Cavani’s sadomasochistic erotic drama ‘The Night Porter’ (1974). This epic film project features a deranged cast of characters, including McCarthy as ‘Max’, a mafioso-like Hollywood executive, and Stangenberg in the role of Lucia, the central character of the 1974 movie, who here plays a young German Actress.
Forming the narrative basis for these new drawings, ‘NV Night Vader’ is a sharp critique of violence and exploitation, offering a powerful commentary on fascism, Hollywood, the contemporary art world, and the current political climate. The title acronym ‘A&E’ – which refers to Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, Adam and Eve, and Arts & Entertainment – signals that this work carries the layered and multivalent force for which McCarthy is known. ‘A&E’ finds the artist and the actress transformed into Hitler and Braun, with the former embodying predatory toxic masculinity and buffoonery, while Eva is at once lover, mother, daughter, and victim.
McCarthy once said, ‘Drawing has always been a part of forming the so-called script, and these scripts can take different forms,’ In the works on view in Hauser & Wirth’s online exhibition, crude, expressionistic marks made during unrehearsed performative sessions have been captured on paper, conveying the motion and energy of a deeply consuming improvised event. The works exemplify McCarthy’s practice of drawing while in character, an approach that has become central to his large-scale video performance projects, including ‘WS White Snow’ (2012–13) and ‘CSSC Coach Stage Stage Coach’ (2017). As McCarthy has said, ‘… it’s always been about the process of improvisation, the creation of the unexpected action and dialogue.’
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About the artist
Paul McCarthy is widely considered to be one of the most influential and groundbreaking contemporary American artists. Born in 1945, and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, he first established a multi-faceted artistic practice, which sought to break the limitations of painting…Learn more