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  • Provenance

    Luhring Augustine, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I remember finding a rock in a vacant lot when I was five years old. I tried to break the rock to carry home. I pounded it with another rock. At one point I stopped pounding it and picked up the rock to carry it home. After a short distance, a head appeared from the rock.” (Paul McCarthy, taken from an interview, Bomb Magazine, Summer 2003)

    The appearance of heads in Paul McCarthy’s work has continued throughout the course of his career as an artist. Whether concealing his own head behind that of a rubber mask or disguise (as seen in lot 19, Rocky), creating large scale Disney-esque characters with oversize apple or tomato heads, or busts of Pirates, a distinct focus on “the head” can be distinguished. The rock he found as a child perhaps had a resonating effect on his development as an artist. One can also construe the use of the head as contributing to McCarthy’s astute ability to evoke a strong emotional response from his viewer.

    As Iwona Bostwick describes, “Paul McCarthy takes the phenomenal effect of sculpture and links it to psychic realms that generate deep-seated fears or desires, while triggering a whole symbolic register.” (M. af Peterson and P. McCarthy, Paul McCarthy: Head Shop/Shop Head, Göttingen, 2006, p. 32)

    The present lot Hammer Head, bears similarities to related heads and busts that McCarthy created for his recent works Jack, Shit Face (2003/2005) and Captain Morgan (2003/2005). Hammer Head cast in a brilliant day-glo orange and deep obsidian black silicon rubber evokes a feeling that it is depicting a rugged individual – a cowboy, a pirate or Hell’s Angel. These figures are as Iwona Bostwick describes, “are themselves an intrinsic part of the mythos of America, land of the free.” (ibid, 31) This image has been violated by the figures large Phallic nose, and objects that are piercing his eye sockets, and mouth. These humorous yet outrageous hybrids [speak] to a cultural anxiety over the mechanizing and commodifying of body and psyche alike. McCarthy's work marks a different crisis--the confusion between media images and embodied experience. His cartoony anatomies are typically ruptured, penetrated, reformulated by an invasive Toontown logic. (R. Rugoff, “Deviations on a Theme-works by Paul McCarthy”, Artforum, October 1994)


Hammer Head

Cast silicon rubber.
39 1/2 x 23 x 34 in. (100.3 x 58.4 x 86.4 cm).
This work is unique from a series of six works executed in six different colors.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $553,600

Contemporary Art Part I

16 Nov 2006, 7pm
New York