Posts Tagged ‘Comics’

Silent Pictures

Friday, September 18th, 2009
Ghost of Stan Brakhage.
http://abstractcomics.blogspot.com/2009/04/syntactic-comics.html
http://www.actionyes.org/issue10/abstract-comics/gaze/gaze1.html
http://www.atrabile.org/ibn-al-rabin/Fanzines/fanzine.php?titre=CidreEtSchnaps
Robert Breer A Man and His Dog Out for Air, 1955 Free radical, loose lines merge and amalgamate into a squiggly nebula that looks like an ant.  It continues to transform contorts into the image of a portly man walking his dog.  They continue up the side of the frame and lose their form until returning to the sidewalk.
Ibn al Rabin six comics from his collection, Cidre et Schnapps, 2001.  Shapes arguing about eac other, consuming each other, and being consumed by Cannibal Frames.
Lew Trondheim Bleu 2001 Amoeba a blue amoeba advances on, then eats, a gold star, like Pac-Man.  It regurgitates the star, then finds a version of itself in gold.  They mate in a swirling vortex that looks like a tajitu.
Billy mavreas, Border Suite 2008, fractured panels, looks like Bauhaus Mondrian.
Greg Shaw, Belgian Parcourse Pictural, 2008 Tetris game Passerby Floor
Mark Gonyea, Squares within Squares, 2007, like Albers
Tim Gaze, Untitled 2007
Anders Pearsn Untitled 2007
Janusz Jaworski Abstract Comics 1 4 5 11 12 6 7 8 9 , 2001-4 watercolors speaking unintelligible language to each other.
Mark Stafford Brandi A History of Composition in Abstract Comic Covers, 2001 masonite panels
Renee French Straw Dog no. 44, 2009
Jason Overby Apophenia, 2008 “A linear structure is created by an abstract binary opposition.  pencil lets flaws in and is not binary (unless you’re thinking conceptually.)
Denmark, USA, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands

Silent Pictures at the CUNY James Gallery

What if Stan Brakhage made comics instead of films?  Curator Andrei Molotiu offers a response in Silent Pictures, a group show of comics artists working in the hinterlands of comics abstraction.  Wait – comics can be abstract?

Silent Pictures brings to the James Gallery at CUNY Graduate Center some of the most vital imaginations found throughout a three-year call for entries.  They come from North America, western Europe, and Australia.  Many are American; almost none are women.  In her catalog essay, James Gallery Director Linda Norden reveals that no women replied to the call.  (Why have there been no great women comic-book artists?)

The show also displays selections from Art Spiegelman’s library of wordless comics; and it features a film program for those who really might want to dig for precedents of abstract sequential images.

Francis Bacon, Man with Dog, 1953
Francis Bacon, Man with Dog, 1953

But the segment of Robert Breer’s A Man and His Dog Out for Air, 1955, is absolutely silent.  That’s because the film strips are unspooled and sandwiched over a lightbox.  Frame by frame, we witness loose lines inch toward each other, until they amalgamate into a squiggly scribble that looks like an ant, life-sized.  The restless line continues to transform, until it contorts into the image of a portly man walking a dog.  The whimsical cartoon straddles abstraction and representation, something and nothing, like a time-based Kandinsky.

“A line is a dot that went for a walk,” said Paul Klee, whose ghost coexists here with Brakhage’s spirit, leaning against the wall that bears Billy Mavreas’ Border Suite, 2008.  Reminiscent of drawings from Klee’s Bauhaus, the work looks like comic panels that imploded into fractal regenerations of themselves.

Billy Mavreas, Border Suite, 2008
Billy Mavreas, Border Suite, 2008

At a glance, Klee’s Bauhaus colleague, Josef Albers, is apparent in the polychrome plans of Squares within Squares, 2007 by Mark Gonyea.  And Jason Overby, from Oklahoma, could be their diligent protégé.  His studious, tiny notes in Apophenia, 2008 say things like, “A linear structure is created by an abstract binary opposition.  Pencil lets flaws in and is not binary (unless you’re thinking conceptually).”  Shazam!

Mark Gonyea, Squares Within Squares, 2007
Mark Gonyea, Squares Within Squares, 2007

Ibn al Rabin exhibits six comics from his collection, Cidre et Schnapps, 2001.  They are hilarious and brilliant.

Ibn al Rabin, Stop Quibbling Please (l) and Pampers Welcome (r), both 2001
Ibn al Rabin, Stop Quibbling Please (l) and Pampers Welcome (r), both 2001

In Rabin’s pages, geometric shapes argue with each other, consume each other, and get ambushed in ruthless panelcide.  Funny pages, but they also offer a study of the means by which they exist and the conventions that define comics, in general.

Ibn al Rabin, The Cannibal Frame, 2001
Ibn al Rabin, The Cannibal Frame, 2001

I would focus on other examples, but too many candidates are hung too high for much evaluation.  Many of the drawings and inkjet prints are intimate in scale and rich in detail, so lord knows why the work is hung salon-style, climbing up the walls like your friendly neighborhood you-know-who.  So the walls imitate a comics page?  But the gallery walls already compartmentalize the space like panels on a page.  Whatever; viewers are advised to bring platforms.

Renée French, Straw Dog no. 44, 2009
Renée French, Straw Dog no. 44, 2009

Renée French is one of the few women in the show, but her colossal drawing Straw Dog no. 44, 2009 is enough work for several people.  If we accept it as multiple drawings, then that adds to the show 29 drawings made by a woman.  And because the multi-paneled drawing echoes the window panes of the gallery, and vice-versa, the work echoes throughout the space.

Cool
(l-r) Renée French, Art Spiegelman, Mark Stafford Brandi

Andrei Molotiu tells us in his catalog essay, “‘Abstract’ here is specific to the medium of comics, and only partly overlaps with the way it is used in other fine arts.”  Still, Mark Stafford Brandi gives us A History of Composition in Abstract Comic Covers, 2001 – a collection of painted collages on masonite panels, one for each ism, trend, and movement from the last few milennia.

Mark Stafford Brandi, A History of Composition in Abstract Comic Covers, 2009
Mark Stafford Brandi, A History of Composition in Abstract Comic Covers, 2009

SVA faculty member Gary Panter is in the show. You can read more about his work in this Artforum piece by Andrei Molotiu.

IMAGES: Michael Bilsborough

Drawing Words & Writing Pictures

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

How can you teach comics? For me – and my friends – comics were something you’d learn on your own. -Read Daredevil or Swamp Thing, and then make your own, consulting Silver Surfer for chrome reflection, Daredevil for the muscle groups of the upper body, and Todd McFarlane for the consummate Spiderman. Teenage knuckles whitened and cramped, sweating over sketchbooks bearing pages of characters and heroes, costume designs, and renderings of fire shooting from hands, lasers from eyes, and impossibly portable gatling guns. The most ardent of these hormonal young artists would slide their drawings into portfolios, seeking the sagely criticism of modern masters, themselves seeking approval from their audiences at an annual Comic-Con. (I sound phallocentric, but I’m being anecdotal, and my memory of the comics world includes very few girls into making comics. The influx of girl readers might be one of the biggest changes in comics over recent years.) So we identified as artists, but we didn’t really think of “medium.” Comics were an obsession, not a medium.

But upon acknowledging that comics can be a medium, we can be serious in analyzing techniques, history, and language, above and beyond their content. Understanding Comics made Scott McCloud the Sir Isaac Newton of comics. In Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Matt Madden and Jessica Abel declare a principal of comicsology: “Comics is a language first and foremost, style and genre come later.”

Scott McCloud, "Understanding Comics"
Scott McCloud, "Understanding Comics"

As successful comics artists, Matt Madden and Jessica Abel have endured the self-teaching tradition. As teachers, they’ve seen its results several hundred times a year. They understand what young creators need to know. Drawing Words & Writing Pictures sets out to codify the process of making comics, without alienating proud autodidactic artists. And aspiring Jim Lee successors must understand that their drawing skills fight less than half the battle. “Good” drawing is relative and unnecessary, and the core of comics is more profound.

The Cover
The Cover

The book splits cleanly into fifteen chapters that approach the lexicon of comics (e.g. “emanata”), the science of panels, penciling, lettering, inking, writing, designing, “comics in the age of mechanical reproduction,” and even a guide to your 24-hour comics creation marathon, which should result in a dynamic comic – and coffee breath. Each chapter is laden with exemplary comics pages and panels, even including a cool glimpse of Charles Burns’ process.

The book even covers posture!
The book even covers posture!

Jessica and Matt write as informed peers, rather than lecturing elders trying to scold readers into submission. They read like attentive, active, insightful professionals willing to rationally explain their do’s and don’ts, and demonstrate what happens when those get mixed up. And their welcoming writing style gently reveals the impressive erudition the writers have accumulated. They seem to account for every other text on the topic in question, a range of artists from distant eras and countries, and agile comparisons and references to art history.

The supplemental website makes Drawing Words & Writing Pictures a viable textbook. Students and teachers alike will benefit from this dynamic resource, which promises actual student artwork, helpful external links, and even a printable nine-panel comics page.

After you score a copy, you can get it autographed. This summer, Jessica and Matt will teach a workshop that guides students in making a comic in two intensive weeks. Well connected, they will invite other professionals for lectures and crit sessions. And the timing is perfect, as the MoCCA fair coincides with the conclusion of the course. Students can display their creations at the fair, hot off the presses.