Over the past six decades, men have pulled dangerous, disgusting, and debauched stunts in the name of art. The resulting works involved human feces, self-harm, motor vehicles, and barnyard animals. In exhibitions and performances both critically acclaimed and reviled, men have proudly engaged in bad behavior.
Some of them simply perpetuated the symbolic associations that already link men with weaponry, motorcycles, and destruction. (Notably, many of these artists live, or lived, in New York. The city, perhaps, encourages such mythmaking and bravado.)
Here, we survey 14 artists who indulged in the macho, lewd, and risqué, whether that meant taking a bullet or tattooing a pig. If there’s any hallmark of macho art, it’s that—regardless of any ensuing controversy—it still helps to canonize its creators. As Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” These artists all made work that is, indeed, difficult to ignore.