With Mondo Cane Kama Sutra, General Idea (active 1969–1994) creates a coded depiction of their queer identity, showcasing the trio’s ability to mix humour and sexuality. The work, which consists of a group of ten individual paintings, also provides a symbolic portrait of General Idea, in line with the group’s ongoing interest in self-representation. Created in a period in which sexuality was off-limits in the art world, the works explicitly reference homosexuality. In Mondo Cane Kama Sutra, the ménage à trois is an apt representation of the three artists, whose artmaking was enmeshed with their daily lives.


General Idea, Mondo Cane Kama Sutra, 1984
General Idea, Mondo Cane Kama Sutra, 1984
Fluorescent acrylic on canvas, set of ten paintings, each 243.8 x 304.8 x 10 cm, collection of the General Idea Estate

Each of these large paintings depicts a trio of stylized orange, yellow, and pink fluorescent poodle silhouettes in various sexual positions. Formally, the work is a riff on the “Protractor” series of American abstract painter Frank Stella (b.1936), which featured raw canvas separating different colours.


During the 1980s the poodle was a key formal device General Idea employed to represent themselves as queer artists. They seized on the poodle as a means of self-representation due to the animal’s “banal and effete” presence and used it to speak to normative understandings of sexual roles.


This Spotlight is excerpted from General Idea: Life & Work by Sarah E.K. Smith.

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