Paul McCarthy has lived in Los Angeles since the 1970s. In 1968 he studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he began to take an interest in performance and video. In 1973 he completed studies in film, video and art at the University of Southern California (USC). His first videos, which he made while still at university, reflected his interest in forms of perception and illusion, but he soon began to make use of the human body as an object in intuitive, repetitive performances. McCarthy sees performance as a form of appropriation that uses representation and fiction to question the meaning of objects. Since 1974 he has used aspects of American popular culture (particularly elements related to food and children) in eschatological and sexual performances which he has documented on video. In 1984 McCarthy gave his last public performance before reinventing himself as a visual artist and producing sculptures that often focus on the eschatological. At the same time, particularly during the 1990s, he continued to make videos involving complex sets and performances, often in collaboration with fellow artist Mike Kelley. Since the beginning of the new millennium, his sculptures and sets have given way to complex installations that preside over the surrounding space, and in which the artist appears as the protagonist of the scene.
David G. Torres