Paul McCarthy

Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK)

FOUR DECADES IN, Paul McCarthy’s art might easily be considered repetitious, overblown, big-budget, anxiously relentless. Is that his problem, or is it America’s? The question is worth asking, if only because McCarthy, like Warhol before him, totes a get-out-of-critique-free card: His art is a mirror to his homeland’s times, at best the convex type that allows a view around blind bends—though should it descend into costly gibbering spectacle, there are always enough analogues and portents in the parent culture to still render it defensible. Even so, there are inevitably qualitative variations within a project stretching over much of a lifetime, and these can best be evaluated by means of a large retrospective. The recent “Head Shop/Shop Head: Works 1966–2006”—on view this past winter at SMAK in Ghent, Belgium, after showing at Moderna Museet in Stockholm and ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum,

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