Tag Archive for abstract

Party Crashers at Arlington Arts Center

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.

Review: Abstract Comics


Abstract Comics

Buy at Amazon.com

Every couple of months or so, another article will come out considering the question of “Are comics literature?” Much has been discussed about the value of graphic novels with attempts to place them alongside prose books.

Less has been discussed about comics as art, however.

Abstract Comics (2009, Fantagraphics) tries to make the case for the latter. On one hand, it succeeds beautifully. On the other hand, it’s really hard to say if some these are truly “comics.”

The book is designed beautifully — editor Andrei Molotiu presents this book like an exhibition catalog and the oversized pages are filled with rich blacks and vibrant colors. It’s maybe not quite a coffee table book, but it’s a lovely one to leave lying around to flip through idly.

The content serves as a great introduction to a genre of comics that few people knew existed. Molotiu takes somewhat of a scholarly approach to the content, placing the concept of abstract comics within art history in his introduction. He makes a good case.

Obviously, some of these are absolutely what I think of comics. Robert Crumb’s “Abstract Expressionist Ultra Super Modernistic Comics” is done in his classic style, even if it lacks a narrative, and Mike Getsiv‘s “Shapes,” with its swirl of colors, has plenty of movement. Henrik Rehr‘s “Storms” is powerful as it builds, evoking the chaos of storms. Mark Gonyea and James Kochalka also provide interesting contributions — abstract, certainly, as the title of the book would imply, but very much grounded in the traditional sequential form of comics.

Other works in the book, I think it’s a stretch to call comics. In fact, I think it’s a stretch to even say they’re sequential art. Tim Gaze’s series of splotchy patches of black ink, segmented randomly, are appealingly disorganized, but they don’t seem to move from one to the next with clear transitions. Richard Hahn‘s bicolored paintings, divided into tiny, uneven boxes, are lovely and soothing, but don’t say “comics” to me at all. I understand that some of this is just a matter of personal opinion — you may think they’re comics whereas I don’t — but some of this feels like a stretch.

And you may have noticed that everyone I’ve listed so far is a man. There is not one woman creator featured in this book. The Abstract Comics blog features a couple — such as Satu Kaikkonen and Nina Roos — so I’m going to think their work was discovered too late for inclusion here and it wasn’t some intentional oversight. Still, I would’ve loved to have seen more diversity in the creators featured in this book.

Overall, this is a cool concept and I was surprised by it. I think it’s definitely going to cause some debates about what comics are and are not, and that’s a good thing. I’m going to enjoy revisiting this book, even if I don’t agree that all of the works featured here are comics.