Christmas has been a recurrent theme in the work of California based artist Paul McCarthy. Works including; “Santa with Butt Plug” and “Santa Chocolate Shop” have examined and skewered the American idolised vision of Santa Claus.
Since the late 1960s, McCarthy has pushed the boundaries of taboo through the media of performance art, sculpture, and video. In his early performance works, the artist used his own body as material, testing his physical limits amidst a mess of American condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup. His attack on the values of the American way of life and on a society manipulated by the media continued into the 80s, when he began to produce mechanical sculptures that gradually replaced his own presence in the gallery. In the 90s, his ever expansive installations continued to break taboos in a theatrically drastic way, further exploring issues of violence and pornography, masturbation, birth, and death.
In “Santa Chocolate Shop” first shown in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, McCarthy achieves the ultimate dismantling of sentimental notions of childhood innocence. The installation includes a lopsided plywood house and a life-size video projection of Santa “making chocolate” into the mouth of a prone little helper while men in crotch less animal suits scurry around the workshop.
No stranger to food in his art, McCarthy produced 10 inch chocolate figurines based on his sculpture, Santa With Butt Plug, a 24 metre high inflatable public sculpture. He transformed the Maccarone gallery in New York’s West Village into Peter Paul Chocolates, a fully functioning chocolate factory, turning out 1,000 ‘Santa With Tree And Bell’ chocolate figurines each day.