Paul McCarthy | CSSC, The Dogs The Attack

On view at Xavier Hufkens

Written by

Liam Kozak

Photographed by

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Styled by

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Images Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkins

Paul McCarthy’s latest exhibition centers around The Dogs The Attack, a previously unseen film from his ongoing stagecoach project CSSC (Coach Stage Stage Coach) (2016) and DADDA (Donald and Daisy Duck Adventure) (2018). Alongside the film, the exhibition includes works on paper, recent paintings, and a group of sculptures that include three unique pieces from the film. The chosen artworks not only exhibit the complete scope of McCarthy’s diverse artistic approach but also exemplify its dynamic and rejuvenating essence. In this process, ideas blend and merge, generating an intricate tapestry of interconnected pieces and allusions. 

For his latest film, CSSC, The Dogs The Attack (2023), McCarthy collaborated with his son Damon to take us through the eyes of a diverse cast of passengers on a stagecoach traveling through the American Midwest. The film captures the group’s meeting with a gang of cowboys, dressed in bright-white outfits, known as “the dogs.” The cowboys go into a state of frenzy and horrifically attack the passengers. Among those targeted is Ronald Raygun, a character modeled after banker J. P. Morgan (1837-1913), played by McCarthy himself. McCarthy’s stagecoach films consistently highlight the theme of escalating violence, progressing from malicious bullying to fierce and organized brutality, culminating in an unrestrained descent into anarchic annihilation. Similar to the previous installments, CSSC The Attack delicately balances between authenticity and deception, where the fabricated silicone bodies appear lifelike on screen while out-of-date elements such as flashlights and plastic buckets challenge the idea of historical accuracy. When viewed collectively, or in succession, the films can be interpreted as allegories of violence, offering insights into the historical or contemporary socio-political implications and serving as symbolic representations to explore the roots of barbarity and its far-reaching consequences. 

Displayed with meticulous attention to detail are three sculptures of McCarthy’s character Ronald Raygun. The triptych showcases the sculptures in various states, ranging from an exhumed body that remains fully clothed, to a partially unclothed figure that has been subjected to partial butchery. The culmination of the triptych reveals a desecrated corpse, primarily identifiable by the head resting on the floor. The film, and its corresponding sculptures are accompanied by collections of pencil drawings and oil paintings. The pencil drawings, predating the films, resemble visual scripts and storyboards, providing a glimpse into the early stages of the artistic process. On the other hand, the oil paintings were created specifically for this year, adding a fresh and contemporary element to the exhibition. A large sculpture of John Wayne, who is intrinsically connected to the CSSC films, overlooks the exhibition. McCarthy’s films draw inspiration from iconic Westerns like Stagecoach (1939), featuring the renowned actor. In a pivotal scene from the film, Wayne’s character races his carriage across the desert, with the wind dramatically catching the brim of his Stetson hat. McCarthy’s sculpture replicates this moment precisely, as the bent angle of the hat perfectly mirrors the cinematic depiction. The larger-than-life figure lacks realistic features, and yet remains unmistakably recognizable as John Wayne, thanks to the commanding iconography surrounding him. 

​​The exhibition will run from May 26 to July 22, 2023 at the Xavier Hufkens – St Georges art gallery in Brussels, Belgium. 

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art, Paul McCarthy, Xavier Hufkens