INTO: Gary Card’s Clown-Laden Psychedelic Fever Dream

By
Illustrations by Gary Card

Published July 17, 2019

“Into” is a series dedicated to objects, artworks, garments, exhibitions, and all orders of things that we are into—and there really isn’t a lot more to it than that. Today: Mark Burger extols the technicolor phantasmagoria of set designer Gary Card, who recently transformed the Phillips auction house in London into a rainbow wonderland for the group selling exhibition “HYSTERICAL.”

I’M INTO Gary Card’s set designs because I love to imagine what would happen if Pennywise took LSD and decided to become an interior designer. Card, who has constructed silk horses for Hermès, bone masks for Lady Gaga, and zany sets for Nike and Vivienne Westwood, has transformed the London auction house Phillips into an immersive, art-as-psychedelic dreamland for an exhibition aptly titled “HYSTERICAL.” The show, which runs from July 18 through August 21, features work by art world eccentrics like Paul McCarthy, Yayoi Kusama, and Cindy Sherman, all set against a series of kaleidoscopic backdrops, zig-zagging floors, and whimsical cartoon characters designed by Card. The set, which Card describes as “part psychedelic fever dream, part saccharine cartoon chaos,” is a departure from the typically subdued ambiance of an auction house; it creates a joyously dizzying ambiance for patrons as they wander through the space, exhibiting works by contemporary art maestros in a new, Day Glo-infused light.

Card’s work exudes an exuberance for the erratic—a theme that echoes across his dextrous multimedia oeuvre. Clown faces drip molten paint, like a Play-Doh effigy melting inside a gleaming, prismatic wormhole. A Tim Burton-esque dog, made of what can only be described as radioactive sorbet, stares with cyan eyes across a sky of polychromatic cumulus clouds. Card blends texture, tone, and perspective into incandescent hallucinations that seem to vibrate pigment, and glow like neon-tinged phosphenes. His work is equal parts delightful and deranged; hypnotizing, nauseating, and bewildering all at once, and in the best way possible.