1. affected by or deriving from wildly uncontrolled emotion.

2. relating to or suffering from hysteria.

3. the name of Gary Card's first exhibition.

Exploring the undercurrent of cartoon iconography, set designer Gary Card's new exhibition at Philips Gallery sets out to bottle a feeling of hysteria through a kaleidoscopic and hypnotising display. "The word 'hysterical' evoked imagery of laughter and joy but also frantic panic and mass chaos; the title came to me almost immediately, becoming central to the shows philosophy," says Gary.

The first exhibition of the fabled set designer – well-known in the fashion world for contributing to campaigns for the likes of Balenciaga, Hermès and COMME des GARÇONS – Hysterical bridges the gap between fashion and contemporary art with collaborations from Dior Homme's Artistic Director, Kim Jones, and fashion photographer, Tim Walker. "I've worked and been friends with both Tim and Kim for a few years now, and we've worked on a couple of projects that had creepy cartoon figures involved," explains Gary. "When we started the process of putting this show together I went through my archive and thought it would be fun to reach out to both Tim and Kim and see if they would be involved... It's a nice way of bridging the gap between my experience in the fashion industry and contemporary art."

Intrigued to learn more as the Mayfair establishment opens its doors, we chatted to Gary...

The show is described as an "examination into the unsettling undercurrent of cartoon iconography", what do you find inherently unsettling and how do you explore this theme through the show?
"I have always been interested in the concepts of high art and low art – and the space between them. What makes something high art? Many artists that I admire seem to be exploring this division through the use of cartoon imagery and illustrators. The likes of Robert Crumb and Basil Wolverton have explored this world for 40 years, and are now being reassessed as serious artists worthy of their place in the canon. George Condo, Paul Mccarthy and Ugo Rondinone are all artists who have inspired my work. Mccarthy for me, in particular, has chosen to scratch beneath the joyful, seemingly harmless exterior of our favourite cartoon icons to reveal subjects that make his work so unsettling. Younger artists like Jordan Wolfson and Jamian Juliano-Vilani are picking up that mantle. This exciting and inspiring moment in art has brought me to the world of Hysterical – a cartoon fun house – that extenuates the vibrancy of our curated pieces as well heightening their inherent menace. It highlights my interest and demonstrates my inspiration and vision."

Why did you choose to exhibit your artwork for the first time now?
"Over the last 10 years I've experimented with small art shows (I've had four so far: two fashion illustration shows, a print show and a sculpture show), but nothing on this scale.  I felt like the time was right for me to do something different; I've had a really good couple of years working on some high profile fashion projects and I needed a new challenge – something that focused on the thing that inspired me to start making things for a living. First and foremost, I am a fan of contemporary art; it has been the main drive of my career as a set designer. Last year we started thinking of a concept that would bring my passion full circle – and creating an immersive set for an art show – a concept I had never seen attempted before." 

What do you hope for people to take away from the show and the questions it spawns?
"The most important take away is that it’s entertaining: the scale alone is like nothing I've ever worked on, so if nothing else I want our audience to be enveloped in the world we've made.  I'm interested in what makes something art, and does the function of a piece diminish its value? Is a ghost train art? It certainly evokes a visceral emotional response. As a set designer, I have made countless installations for fashion events and editorials: my job is to create a mood and a feeling that gives the audience context. In this context I'm making a set for contemporary art. At some points it may be hard to distinguish what is art and what is set, and that may lead the audience to question the value of each, I'm interest in that blurred line."

Hysterical runs from 18 July until 21 August 2019 at 30 Berkeley Square, London,W1J 6EX.

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