DIVUS LONDON: Stu Mead in London | a new book, a show and the mysterious man behind it
[b]Stu Mead in London[/b] | a new book, a show and the mysterious man behind it

Stu Mead in London | a new book, a show and the mysterious man behind it

29.04.2016 19:00 - 28.05.2016


After two years of digging in Stu's American and German archives, the first comprehensive book of his paintings and drawings is finally done. Come to see the show, see the book and meet Stu Mead in person.

You can order this book here

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On Friday April 29 at 7 pm, works from the American period of provocative and hedonic painter Stu Mead will be possible to see for the first time in the United Kingdom. Rare early works will be accompanied with a selection of his latest paintings, drawings and prints. This underground American artist, now living in his Berlin haven, will also be uniquely present at the opening. A large, comprehensive book of Stu Mead’s paintings, drawings and prints will be available.

The life story of Stu Mead (b. 1955) is extraordinary and remained unknown until recently, when Divus editors began their work on his book. The first decade of his art career can be seen as a short history of modern painting and the application of avant-garde thoughts. Mead was simply a virtuoso of both style and conceptualization, as can be seen in his works from this period. But then he abandoned the path of a contemporary artist, and opted for a wild, sensuous and provocative imagination in which he took advantage of his astonishing painting skill and playful humour. He turned to taboos, sexual dreams, strange paradisiac visions, Elysian bestiality and scatology, using them as objects to analyse and creating disturbing Freudian metaphors, rather than simplifying these concepts.
However, at the beginning of the 1990s, another recurrent moral crusade swept through the United States, as some artists were taken to court and some, such as Mike Diana, even ended up in jail. This was the time when Stu Mead and his close artistic contemporary Frank Gaard got involved in the Art Police zine project (1987), before publishing the notorious avant-garde and saucy zine Men Beg (1991). Men Beg was the ideological companion of Boiled Angel, for which Mike Diana was prosecuted in Florida. In Europe it can be paralleled to the highly controversial French magazine Hara-Kiri in the 1960s. This type of obscenity was something that could not last long in the United States.

To avoid trouble, stay absolutely independent and keep his expenses low, Stu Mead took a chance and stayed in Europe after his second Berlin show in 2000. This exile was not planned; all of his possessions and primarily his early works were left in Minneapolis, and he has only returned to his country three times since. From then he began to live in Berlin, starting from scratch, but as a member of the End Art gallery circle, he quickly became an important figure within Kreuzberg’s liberal artworld. He also began his collaboration with Renhard Scheibner, another daredevil painter, and photographer Thomas Hauser. In France he continued working with Marseille-based publishing house Le Dernier Cri, where he published six limited editions of artbooks, and where the then-already expired Men Beg was reprinted. In 2004 Mead joined a group show called When Love Turns To Poison, where some of his and other artists’ works were attacked by audiences and destroyed. Four years later, his US solo show in Burbank’s Hyena gallery (2008) brought scandal and dispute, even within gallery members, and in 2015 Pakito Bolino from Le Derniere Cri received death threats for exhibiting Stu Mead and Reinhard Scheibner in France.

Ivan Mečl

From Stu Mead´s monography:

At the end of history, at the close of the story of the West that conservative visionaries have been promising, we must publish all the things we have dreamed of even if it might face universal rejection. The people who will be going through the ruins of our civilization should know what we were thinking about, what shaped our opinions and determined our actions – just as we know that ancient Greece was more than a rhetorical exercise and an oasis of puritan civic democracy. This book is being published at a time when war is again more moral than a sexual orgy, a woman cannot beat a man with impunity, America no longer understands Dada and is turning into Sparta, England does nothing other than build houses and make pop music, France has forgotten why it once admired the Marquis de Sade, and Germany is so proper that it prefers to do nothing at all.
Has anyone ever understood Stu Mead? It isn’t at all clear from the existing texts. Has Stu ever understood himself, when he often openly regrets the things he has said in media interviews? Yes, but today he chooses his words carefully. The superficial viewer immediately interprets his work as vulgar, and society threatens him with punishment for crimes against the contemporary understanding of the morals of modernity. Perhaps that is one reason why he has turned his back on modern forms and methods even though he was a sensitive virtuoso who could have been a modern master capable of skillfully working with what remained of Surrealism, Suprematism, and Cubism, just like Gerhard Richter in Germany and Peter Howson in England. But in the middle of his artistic career, Stu ceased shaping artistic styles and, just like the disappointed Howson, who let himself be carried away by the bitterness of Christian messianism, Stu Mead gladly succumbed to hell and to an exploration of his pleasures. There is nothing bad about that. If we did not explore the extremes of our imagination, we would not know where to stop in our reality. Even at the risk that we will not recognize it. But we have accepted this risk because we are willing to live our lives in a world of both uncertainty as well as promise.

Excerpt from text by Ivan Mečl

They are the sweetest girls one could draw, with little dresses, bows, panties; little girlfriends of Hans Christian Andersen or Lewis Carroll. Little witches who gather power the way some people gather mushrooms. Little girls who see their bodies as something natural. They don’t choose what they see: something that is new for them, inartificial, natural, ungrasped. And they learn to grasp it. To firmly grasp in their little hands the hems of their panties and the penises of large men. Plush animals held in a tight embrace are suddenly capable of giving other pleasures as well. After a while, our senses are so aroused that all it takes is a painted bear with a whistle and a bunny watching a girl by the fireplace with a yearning look on its face, and our minds imagine a zoophile group sex session all on their own. Even the devil is shocked by the girls, and for good reason. Stu’s pictures are an authentic depiction of that rare moment when a girl discovers her power, which is contained not just in her genitals. In Music School, one girl is sitting apart from a trio of fussy-looking friends. She is slouched in her chair, legs spread wide, playing a violin without a bow, hollering with all her might. Stu says that she has just discovered jazz. Which could be the same as sex. And vice versa.

As sometimes happens to other artists whose subjects are in the transitional period from childhood to adulthood, there are people who find that Stu’s art exists on the boundary of what is legal. These charges are an unconscious and civilized way of masking the deeper taboo of the inviolability or untouchability of beings in transition. But Stu does not view himself as such a being: “I identify with the girls in my paintings. And I also identify equally with the boys and men (who often look like me) as well as the horses, cows and dogs. I’m a handicapped man, but still I’m a man. I’m not outside gender categories. I am not ‘in transition’. I’m just an artist with a perverted imagination trying to make good paintings.”

Excerpt from text by Lenka Klodová

29.04.2016 19:00 - 28.05.2016


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