Dan McCarthy is one of the rare potters who has made a life in the fine art world – like an ugly duckling raised by a pack of wolves. The work is proudly anti-craft, which is exactly the taste of ceramics in fine art at present. His work is relentless in every sense – it is relentlessly happy, relentlessly anti-craft, and relentlessly irreverent. He takes these aspects of his practice to such an extreme that you get a sense he is being dishonest. I saw an Internet meme recently that said, “That Awkward Moment when your Sarcasm is so Advanced People Actually Think You are Stupid.” This is Dan McCarthy.
Beneath the surface of his hastily made happy-face pottery is tragedy. They are slopped together faces – colorful and superficial like your dramatic Aunt who cakes on makeup and bright blue eyeliner to distract from her true life of misery (Like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show). When she cries it looks scarily similar to McCarthy’s melting rainbows.
The work is a portrait of modern culture: the digital-zombie millennials, airbrushed anorexic super models, and superficial material culture. Like these unflattering aspects of modern culture, McCarthy’s pots are (literally and metaphorically) empty. It’s easy to look at these and say they are dumb – because the are. They are self-aware and intentionally casual, as if a child made them. Because what is more simultaneously inspiring and tragic than a beautiful naive child forced to grow up in our backwards modern world?