We typically consume comic art pretty quickly. And that’s by design — comics are sequential so we’re meant to be always going forward to the next panel or the next page. Yes, we may linger over an individual image every so often but that’s more the exception than the rule.
While I do of course consider comic art to absolutely be art (to me, it’s not really something that’s up for debate), I think Arlington Arts Center’s Party Crashers will change a few minds who think otherwise. It is an extensive look at comics-as-art with a number of notable artists including Jim Rugg, Dash Shaw and Gabrielle Bell. The artists featured here cover a diverse number of styles, from the refined to the cartoony to the experimental. It’s a wonderful ambassador for what the medium of comics encompasses.
Seeing these images and pages out of context hanging on the gallery’s walls is a thrill. Instead of getting caught up in the story or sequential nature of the comics, I got to spend time taking in the images individual. It is, of course, always fun to see original drawings up close and getting a glimpse into the creative process.
Downstairs in the center’s Truland/Experimental Galleries is a selection of artists makings abstract comics. Now I’m still of the mind that I don’t really consider a lot of abstract comics to be “comics,” I do think these images work really well in a gallery setting and I love that they’re included here. I enjoyed Andrei Molotiu’s animated pieces quite a bit.
While you’re downstairs, be sure to check out the comics children who’ve taken classes at the art center have made. They’re awesome and while I wouldn’t say they’re my favorite part of the exhibit as a whole, I do think they point to an exciting future for comics.
The exhibit is up Jan. 16, and if it’s at all possible — like if you’re within a reasonable travel distance and have the time to do so — I think it’s absolutely worth seeing. I know that it happens, but I do think it’s a shame that this exhibit it up over the holidays since I think most of us are booked up through the end of the year.
A companion exhibit at Artisphere opens Dec. 11 and runs through Feb. 13, focusing on fine art inspired by comics. Right now, it feels pretty unlikely I’ll get over there before January, but we’ll see.
Image by Dash Shaw.