The Chamber of Pop Culture, London's premier transgressive venue, played host for the last month to The Impossible World of Stu Mead, a typically brave selection of the Iowa-born Mead's magnificently offensive story-telling paintings, drawings, and prints.
Berlin resident Mead's domain is that of mid-teens girls - regular girls or outsider girls - wandering through an outwardly American landscape, busy going through rites of passage and a few other passages as well. Mostly it's like The Four Marys on Speed. The work is amusing but it'd mean nothing if it were merely entertaining. It's not for the faint-hearted or the squeamish; a sharp edge gives it a provocative legitimacy.
Ghazi Baraka, writing in Apocalypse Culture 2, said: 'In many ways Mead's work has become increasingly offensive in recent years the sort only found in dark corners of porn stores... slides of his work were once handed over to the police by a photo development store in Minneapolis. A few weeks later, a police officer stopped by Mead's house to inform him that what he was drawing was legal, but that the matter was being looked into by cops specializing in vice and child abuse. Mead was forced to hire a lawyer, who discovered the cops were merely harassing him due to the subject matter of his work.'
Mead comes to life and sex with what seems to be an open heart and a healthy attitude. At first glance many of his images seem unambitious or lacking in depth but they repay closer examination because there is invariably a complete and satisfying narrative contained within each frame.
Joe Ambrose has written 12 books, the most recent being Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish Civil War.