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Enclave 5: Divus | Stu Mead

Apr 22, 2016

Preview Friday April 29 7pm

April 30 – May 21 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.

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.

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