Paul McCarthy, “WS,” 2013. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Joshua White.

- At the preview event for Paul McCarthy’s “WS” at the Park Avenue Armory, which opened June 19 and runs until August 4, I was amused to see Serious Collector Types trying not to look shocked. It is definitely a learned skill in the higher echelons of the art world to put on a blasé face even when you feel like wincing, or running the other way. And the more outré the scene, the more measured the visage.

McCarthy’s two current exhibitions in NYC—he also has “Rebel Dabble Babble” at Hauser & Wirth Gallery for the summer—both see him testing the limits of shock value. He has always been a provocateur, mining sweet fairy tales and cartoons for dark weirdness. But with these shows, he’s pushing it even further.

Paul McCarthy, “WS,” 2013. Image: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Joshua White.

“WS” is a mini-miracle of gesamtkunstwerk, or total artwork. The artist has created an entire set filled with to-scale parts of fully furnished ranch houses (based on the one McCarthy grew up in), set in a forest of shiny, tall, spooky, fairytale trees—the ability to do is part of the joy of working in the Armory’s vast Drill Hall. You could do pretty much anything in there. If you go, make sure to go up to the elevated viewing area, which gives a great sense of the project overall.

Visitors peer through holes in the houses to see disturbing, over-the-top scenes inside; you’ll never think of bobbing for apples the same way again. On huge video projections, an actress playing a bizarro version of Snow White (“WS” is an inversion of the initials) does unusual things with chocolate sauce, and creates messes even Mr. Clean could not fix. McCarthy himself plays a bizarro Walt Disney, Walt Paul. There’s a lot of humor in this installation, that’s for sure.

Paul McCarthy, “WS,” 2013. Park Avenue Armory Installation photo by James Ewing.

Down at Hauser & Wirth, “Rebel Dabble Babble” takes on a different kind of myth-busting, delving into the behind-the-scenes drama of the classic movie Rebel Without A Cause. This exhibition also mixes huge domestic installations and complex video projections, some of which have James Franco as James Dean and others of which get very porn-like. Both this show and “WS” were created by McCarthy working alongside his son, Damon.

At the gallery preview, it was too dark to see the expressions of the viewers. But I am guessing it was that all-important art world face: placid and serene no matter what McCarthy throws at them.