Friday, August 2, 2013


Paid my money and went into the Park Avenue Armory on 67th St., an elegant historic brick exterior filling an entire block to see Paul McCarthy’s exhibition WS (White Snow); the reverse initials for Disney’s classic film Snow White based on the original fairy tale written by The Brothers Grimm. The atmosphere of this vast space includes trees and a “magic” forest exuding a deceptive charm giving us an early clue to the upside down, insane/crazy, chaotic nature of this vast installation which comments and revels in the underbelly of the human psyche with the “id” totally unleashed; Dionysian orgies of yore gone mad without restraint. White Snow is innocence willingly corrupted, delightedly carousing in the  debauchery.

As if to emphasize the need to control man’s hidden scabrous temperament, there were more guards - about 20 of them – than actual onlookers (when I was there) overseeing the various “stage sets” - rooms/ tableaus depicting 3-D scenes from the 4 channel 7 hour video which is projected at both ends of the huge space.  I sat through about 2 hours of the video and actually would have stayed longer, but my friend and I had to finally leave to go back home.  I was alternately intrigued, bored, excited, humored, and surprisingly fascinated by McCarthy’s seemingly adolescent wallowing in scatology and pornography, but kept feeling that there was  “something else” going on here. I found myself intellectually aroused by the roots of this sometimes disgusting, sometimes tedious, and sometimes brilliant satirical work with roots going back to Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, as well as the cinematic work of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. Holland Cotter in his NY Times review compared the “Yahoos” from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to the dwarfs in this presentation.

There is a personal element to this video with the psychological merging of Walt Disney and Paul McCarthy who acts the part of Walt, a boorish, fleshy participant and director of the wildly provocative proceedings, complete with mustache and toupee, and is called Walt/Paul. The production stage designs of the house and rooms are based on McCarthy’s own Mormon childhood home in Utah – that fact alone would keep psychiatrists busy for years.

 Yes I do recommend this ambitious exhibition that I anticipated really disliking. It ends August 4th, but it is not for the faint of heart and those who are disgusted by wads of blood, excrement, and lots of humping and dumping, all played out against the innocence of a much beloved childhood tale.

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