Performance still from WS White Snow, 2013 © Paul McCarthy. Photo: Joshua White

Paul McCarthy’s WS White Snow in Los Angeles

2 February 2023

LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), The Box and Hauser & Wirth present the artist’s largest single work presented in the US, originally exhibited at the Park Avenue Armory (New York) in 2013

In November of 2022, The Box initiated an Institutional tour of WS White Snow, with curators and leadership from the Getty, MOCA, the Hammer, the Broad, the ICALA, LAND, LAXART, LACMA, and the Lucas Museum. This think tank has resulted in the rapid action of this joint presentation of Paul McCarthy’s WS White Snow, to coincide with Frieze Los Angeles, as a means to garner support for permanent preservation of the work. In Downtown Los Angeles from 16 – 19 February 2023, the location of the presentation is available upon RSVP.

Like many of LA’s legendary secrets, WS White Snow has been hidden in plain sight for the past decade: an 8,800-square-foot artificial forest and a faithful replica of the artist’s family home have stood fully installed in a warehouse in East LA. The accompanying 7 hour four-channel video projection, edited by Damon McCarthy and taken from 350 hours of recorded video from the 30 days of performance in 2012/13 will be projected alongside the installation.

Damon McCarthy the co-director and producer of White Snow also edited the double and single channeled videos that were included in the original installation at the Armory in NYC that will not be included in this presentation. This will be the first and possibly only time audiences in Los Angeles will be able to experience the work in situ, with the future of the work uncertain.

Installation view of WS at the Park Avenue Armory, NYC, 2013 © Paul McCarthy. Photo: James Ewing

Installation view of WS at the Park Avenue Armory, NYC, 2013 © Paul McCarthy. Photo: James Ewing

WS White Snow is an explicit confrontation with American consumerism and grandiosity that feels as salient presently as it did ten years ago when it debuted. Viewing the work today unearths new layers: reckoning with economic, social, and climate breakdown, we are confronted with the berserkers, the dregs of the party, and the putrid residue from ignoring what frightens us within ourselves.

Clues strewn throughout the forest and cottage of WS White Snow point to the screeching halt of the bacchanal in our own culture, through physical absurdist performances that may at times invoke repulsion, McCarthy, as Walt Paul with Elyse Poppers as White Snow, turn a mirror on the deeper psychological complexities that lurk beneath American Exceptionalism, the upside down of the myths of integrity & civility we craft to define our ‘best selves.’

The subversion of Walt Disney’s Snow White—a syrupy spin of a dark German folktale—chips at the archetypal narrative: there are no heroes or villains to be found here, not even among the symbolism of a prized American storytelling trope. The deeply personal installation details from McCarthy’s own biography illustrate the artist’s acknowledgement of the stakes. Prescient, McCarthy plays with the roles of artist and audience in a culture increasingly obsessed with content creation. Are there boundaries to what we will produce and consume for entertainment?

Installation view of WS White Snow, 2011–2013, Artist’s studio, Los Angeles, CA © Paul McCarthy. Photo: Joshua White

About the Artists

Paul McCarthy 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 by using unorthodox materials such as bodily fluids and food. He has since become known for visceral, often hauntingly humorous work in a variety of mediums—from performance, photography, film and video, to sculpture, drawing and painting. McCarthy earned a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969, and an MFA in multimedia, film and art from USC in 1973. For 18 years, he taught performance, video, installation, and art history in the New Genres Department at UCLA, where he influenced future generations of West Coast artists. McCarthy’s work comprises collaborations with artist-friends such as Mike Kelley and Jason Rhoades, as well as his son Damon McCarthy.

Damon McCarthy Born in 1973, and raised in Los Angeles, California, Damon McCarthy earned a BA in film at CalArts in 1998. For the last 23 years, he has collaborated with his father, Paul McCarthy, as co-director and editor on many complex performative video installations and large-scale film projects. Their collaborative works have been shown extensively worldwide including exhibitions at the Volksbühne, Berlin (2015); Park Avenue Armory (2013); Hauser & Wirth New York (2013); The Box, Los Angeles (2012); Sammlung Friedrichshof, Zurndorf (2010); and Hauser & Wirth Zürich (2007).

Collaborative works include: Theatrical productions of NV (2022) and A&E (2022); Night Vater (2019); Donald and Daisy Duck Adventure, DADDA (2017); Coach Stage Stage Coach, CSSC (2016); WS White Snow (2012-13); White Snow Mammoth (2012); Rebel Dabble Babble (2012); Caribbean Pirates (2005); Piccadilly Circus (2003); Bunker Basement (2003).

The Box The Box LA was formed in 2007 by Mara McCarthy (Principal/Curator) with her father, Paul McCarthy, when they realized how many critically important artists in their community had been overlooked and were not being shown. From its initial location in Chinatown to its current home in the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles, the gallery has honed a respected program, and exhibits artists across generations who work in a variety of mediums including performance, installation, dance, drawing, painting, sculpture, video and photography. With a robust public program series, The Box LA offers audiences multiple access points to engage both forgotten art histories and the work of emerging artists who straddle a similar ethos of risk and experimentation. The gallery recognizes the role of the art market as a means for artists to enter or re-enter art histories, and balances commercial interests against the cultural, political, psychological and spiritual content that the work may offer.

Following the gallery’s move to the Arts District in 2012 and the continued growth of the program, McCarthy is now interested in expanding the notion of a commercial gallery space. In recent years, she has facilitated more artist-centered programs, sought new ways to work with more diverse audiences, and continued to engage politically and psychologically dynamic work. The gallery is also interested in engaging with and supporting nonprofit organizations as part of its overall program. In 2021/22, the gallery’s parking lot served as a makeshift residency for Pieter Performance Space, whose work led to the exhibition, Knees, Schools, Urges. The Box has also collaborated with and served as host to homeLA’s public education program, The We in Me, which considers homelessness through the lens of empathy and civic engagement. A low-income housing prototype, Jardin des Estrellas, spearheaded by gallery artist Corazon del Sol, is located in the gallery parking lot and serves as a site for her advocacy and efforts to realize the project on a larger scale throughout the city.

LAND LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) presents artist-driven, community responsive public projects. The organization empowers artists with dynamic, unconventional practices to have autonomy over the presentation of their work and in meaningful, direct connection with the public. In every instance, LAND seeks to realize the fullest expression of an artist’s vision. An agile, nomadic organization with an ambitious history, LAND brings artists together with the community for a radical, inclusive, and roving arc of art, activism, and innovative, accessible programming. Founded in 2009, LAND has presented over 500 site-specific commissions, spanning numerous sites. Today, LAND extends that adventurous legacy to platform site responsive public artworks that are regenerative and urgent, responding to the multiplicity of people and communities across Los Angeles.

Public Hours: 16 – 19 February, 11 am – 6 pm Downtown Los Angeles address provided upon RSVP at the link here.