Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy (born 1945) is
known for his shocking, sexually charged films
and installations of the 1970s that often
featured the artist dressed as cartoon and
pop-culture characters – Olive Oyl and Santa
Claus, among others – covered in ketchup and
mayonnaise. In recent years McCarthy has
developed a dysfunctional aesthetic, based in
part on a fascination with the aesthetic excesses
of Hollywood and theme parks, that has lead to
his creation of giant inflatable Pinocchio
sculptures and rubber pirates’ heads. In 1999
McCarthy decided to bolt the entire contents of
his Pasadena studio to their exact position
before installing them in a container that he
turned on its side, a work of art he titled simply
The Box. Himself an occasional chess player,
McCarthy decided to create a similarly Readymade
chess set for his RS&A chess commission.
Constructed entirely from random objects
chosen from the contents of his kitchen, among
them a ketchup bottle and rubber duck, the artist
has either recast each piece to look identical to
the original found object or located identical
items to construct seven identical chess sets.
The board has been fabricated from the artists’
kitchen floor by cutting up sixty-four identical
squared segments that are then arranged into a
chequered chessboard at the start of each game.
By coincidence, this design bares a striking
resemblance to Marcel Duchamp’s own wooden
chessboard, designed to play games of “mental
chess” in 1937.