Paul McCarthy: The King, The Island, The Train, The House, The Ship, Hauser & Wirth, London

Pigs and a president make for a provocative show, but it's still hard to squeal with delight

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The Independent Culture

Pig-lovers, Republicans and those of a sensitive disposition: look away now. Paul McCarthy's theme park of grotesqueries has arrived in London. Hauser & Wirth, one of the city's biggest and most powerful galleries, has installed several major installations by the LA superstar artist in its three galleries around the West End. McCarthy's videos, sculptures and performance works from the 70s and 80s seem to convey something deformed and rotten at the heart of the American family, and he is known for disturbing work that pushes at the boundaries of acceptability. Characters from fairy-tales and children's stories are depicted in sexual surreal scenarios. Adults become feral and childlike. Santa Claus brings butt-plugs for Christmas.

The exhibition's unforgettably disturbing centrepiece (at Savile Row) is an eerily lifelike mechanised sculpture called Train, Mechanical (2003-09) which sees a line-up of twin George W Bush sculptures, each sodomising a large pig, while another smaller pig is blindly humping this bigger pig's eye socket. This entire scene is rendered in pink latex – reminiscent of meat, clay or ice cream – which peels away in places revealing the metal parts beneath. As if the puckering of George's mouth and his realistic thrusting gestures of dead-eyed ecstasy weren't bad enough, bear in mind that his blank pink eyeballs follow you around the room, creating a queasy sense of your own implication in the whole sorry scene.

This concern with looking and blindness runs through the shows. McCarthy appears to diagnose our culture with a raging case of scopophilia, which extends primarily from his LA home. A small fairground ride with a camera attached spins wildly out of control at Picadilly. There are airbrushed paintings of Britney Spears's hairless crotch, flashed when paparazzi stuck cameras up her skirt as she got stepped out of cars. There was a little spate of these shots a couple of years ago. Those knickerless celebrity girls, I thought at the time, were faintly aggressive – if this is what you are really after, here it is. I might be mistaken.

Bearing in mind what I've just described, it's probably won't come as a surprise if I say that these works are hard to love. Love is not what they want, really. Of all of the pieces, my favourite is the bronze sculpture in St James's Square, which depicts broken doll-like figurines on a boat. Remnants of an infantalised culture that's falling apart at the seams, they carry on sailing blindly to God knows where. It speaks to our times.

To 14 January at Hauser & Wirth in Savile Row, Piccadilly and St James's Park (www.hauserwirth.com)

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