Categories
Books, Comics, Music Ideas Reading List

Matters of Style: Small ‘p’ Pop

I don’t often write about art books, which often for me, take the form of technical research, and is thus not as much of an ‘escape’ from the day-to-day grind of what is, after all, a business. The ways in which technique translates to expression are naturally of a major concern, make no mistake, but they’re hard to process, and then write about as general interest topics. I much prefer writing about other people’s graphic solutions, whether as art or comics.

Here’s a nice middle ground: Pressing Matters magazine. It’s a beautifully produced celebration of creative solutions in the graphic arts. Interesting design in magazines is part of what attracted me to alternative comics- Raw magazine sought to highlight the expressive potential of comics by placing them in an attractively formatted magazine, and Pressing Matters does the same for printmakers, by putting them in a coffee table showpiece type of publication. It’s expensive, with shipping placing it in the higher end that international design magazines inhabit, but it understands the appeal of printmaking to artists, designers and collectors.

The magazine is published in England, which has a strong contemporary printmaking scene, but it features artists from around the world as well. It’s diverse and progressive- as in many out of the way areas of the creative economy, women seem to have more access to positions of leadership in printmaking, for example- and it downplays purely technical reportage in favor of a lively and very visual presentation of the final result, the textures, bold color schemes, and spirit of innovative graphic simplicity that forward looking prints communicate. In printmaking, the proof is in the pudding; rarely do pundits and experts extoll it for conceptual leaps, rarely do its practitioners seek to wholly reject the past. It inhabits the gray area between mass communication and stripped down visual syntax. It requires no manifesto, the medium truly is the message.

This is no screed against the loftier aims of painting. Pop art is still, even now, misunderstood because people, even Pop art lovers, almost willfully downplay its conceptual brilliance. Warhol made a complete break from the idea of craft in both printmaking and painting with his deliberate mis-registrations and advertorial iconography. Campbell’s soup cans are camp, not kitsch, and as such, are powerful commentaries on the construction of taste. This must be a huge contributor to the rise of printmaking since abstract expressionist days, and the liberation of printmaking from subsidiary roles as advertising and bourgeois decoration. The prints in Pressing Matters hew most often toward the Mid-Century Modern in style and spirit. Like comics, film posters and Warhol himself, they are a distillation of High Modernism for popular (populist?) tastes, but merely a step from expressionism, or even a Neo-Fauvism, as in zines, mini-comics and punk posters.

The art in Pressing Matters is of a working class, rather than academic, discipline. Pictures of ink-stained wretches are common. There is no Ingres in printmaking. Toulouse-Latrec advertised cabarets; his acolytes, booze and bicycles. Russian Constructivism is a high water mark, and Bauhaus its holy center. Red and black are the colors of revolution, and still hold an honored place in printmaking. The magazine celebrates those colors often, along with the generative void of white space.

There is a transparency of process, rather than transcendent technique, in most images here. It is in modern printmaking’s almost necessary disassembling of illusion and gesture, its ever so slight displacement from craft and perfection, that allows it to seduce the eye, and simultaneously to vaguely disturb assumptions about art, not to mention the means of its production. Pressing Matters zeroes in on this disjunct. Pictures of brayers, talismanic and dripping with candy colors, and presses, the machinery of free expression, often cooperatively owned or shared, symbolize printmakers’ close relationship to the nuts and bolts of creativity and to work. At the same time, making multiples, while it began as a way to make art more accessible, is, as Warhol so succinctly demonstrated, a basic commoditization of it.

Printmakers, art collectors, and fans of popular arts- not to mention magazine design- will see in Pressing Matters a loving and lavish home for one of the humblest of art forms, and the complex histories and aspirations it encompasses.

Illustration of Subject Matter
You can subscribe or order bundles of back issues at pressingmattersmag.com

#pressingmatters #printmaking

Categories
Besties Books, Comics, Music Ideas Reading List

Fast NonFiction

It’s in the nature of comics to feel like light reading. I’m not sure that’s true- I have a Yoshiharu Tsuge book of seminal manga stories that is still waiting for me to settle into a slower routine after MoPrint, as I just don’t feel I can give it the focus it needs. Manga is a bit tricky as the format is backwards, not a natural flow for western eyes, and these early, alt-manga classics are very subtle in construction.

The lightest reading is often non-fiction, especially with an old, familiar subject matter. I put down my medieval histories and picked up a few books on the dark ages in comics themselves: the 70’s and early 80’s, when the Marvel Comics renaissance of Kirby and Lee had slackened, and the alt-comics explosion not yet started. Manga was not widely translated yet.

Undergrounds, widely known, were killed by the Supreme Court’s ‘local standards’ ruling, which led to a crack down on head shops (their distribution network) and raids on bookstores. This is a point made by multiple authors here, notably Roger Sabin. There were stirrings in the mainstream with Heavy Metal bringing Euro-comics to these shores for the first time, and Marvel experimenting with Sci-Fi, and there was Arcade, an attempt to mainstream the UG’s, which failed with the antiquated newsstand network. The direct market (comics shops) was still getting started.

I was embedded in the reddest of states at the time, and non-mainstream comics were literally a distant idea to me. When I got to the city just as the alternative boom was beginning, I caught up quickly. Now the internet makes finding obscure publications easy, but at the time, as disenchantment with mainstream offerings took hold, I figured I’d ‘outgrown’ comics. I was wrong, of course, and eventually became curious about those pre-renaissance years. It’s easy to assume there was a gap, but as always in art, there were things bubbling, half noticed, below the surface.

Adult Comics, An Introduction, by Roger Sabin: I found this, partially unread, 1999 Routledge chestnut on my bookshelf. Sabin is a very insightful writer, with a lot of quirks. One is his desire to elevate the British comics industry’s role in the history of comics history. There was a publishing phenomenon in Victorian England known as ‘comics’, but they were more akin to a humor magazine, with prose features and captioned picture stories. He utilizes this semantic glitch to claim the British invented comics, but I see this as equally chauvinistic as the claim that the Americans did. In the broad perspective, comics seem to have developed along a long continuum from Northern Europe through Britain and then to the US, with each commercializing and advancing the medium (and often, infantilizing it) in greater numbers. The Japanese get ignored in this timeline, I agree, but with few translations available, their rich and somewhat belated innovations had little influence until the 1980’s.

I’d of course ignored the European history narrative that begins the book, in favor of the American half when I first read it. Big mistake. Though the repressed 50’s-60’s were largely irrelevant in Brit comics, the 70’s began a Sci-Fi resurgence that led to the ‘British Invasion’, referring to the appearance of Alan Moore (Watchmen) and numerous others in the American mainstream, which finally killed the Comics Code censorship regime and dragged the Marvel/DC mainstream superhero schtick into more adult territory.

Sabin does detailed research, does not ignore minorities, especially women creators, and provides a vital link between the undergrounds and the coming of the alternatives, a punk fanzine-inspired movement in both Britain and America. He demonstrates clearly how Moore, et al’s desire for creative freedom and creator rights brought them- and those issues- to the US. That, and the concurrent emergence of Raw magazine and others such as Weirdo, were to revolutionize the comics form here.

He is over-reliant on reflexive filler phrases such as ‘It should be noted’. These are empty calories in the literary sense, and annoying as hell. The book is quirky but informative.

Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels, Roger Sabin: Sabin does better with this Phaidon publication from 2004. The larger format, better editing and longer timeline make his case for Brit comics a bit stronger. He puts the undergrounds and punk/alternatives into context with the mainstream, with strong sections on feminist and European (and even Japanese) voices. I’d love to see an update, but he’s put the alternative revolution into an international context here, a valuable statement that I’m sure I’ll go back to often. It sits next to Mazur and Danner’s Comics: A Global History 1968-Present on my shelf, along with Gravett’s Comics Art, as antidotes for the poison of American comics exceptionalism.

Profusely illustrated and intelligently argued, it draws a clear line between the Marvel superhero resurgence, the undergrounds, and the British/Euro revival that led to what he calls “The New Mainstream” and the alt comics renaissance in the US. It does a lot to illuminate the foggy yet significant era of creative and market diversification in the 70’s.

Comix, Dez Skinn: This book drills down deep into the underground comix movement and includes sections on the Brit comics resurgence, and the American alternatives, which it treats as linear outgrowths of the UGs, despite being quite obviously more influenced by the punk/DIY aesthetic of the Thatcher/Reagan years, rather than the hippie movement, as were the undergrounds. But it’s interestingly written and nicely researched, with the glaring exception of the illustrations, which are often shambolic. This is the reason I can’t recommend the book.

It appears to have been self-published, but in any case, no attempt was seemingly made to access publishable images and it’s quite possible that many of them are simply lo-res images skiped from the internet, then blown up to unsustainable size. It’s lazy, unprofessional and distracting. The Phaidon Sabin book is a much better overview if, unlike me, you are interested in just one comprehensive look at the era.

The Book of Weirdo, Jon B. Cooke: Again, this is possibly far more detail on this transitional era than most will want. But Weirdo, 28 issues of underground holdovers, alt-comics future stars and primitive/outsider weirdness, really does do more than any other publication to bridge the gap between the undergrounds and the alternatives now plumping book sales everywhere.

The book is arranged as a quasi-scrapbook of history, interesting sidelights, and then a compendium of contributor memoirs, which forms a fairly compelling, if long-ish oral history of sorts. Robert Crumb founded the magazine, deliberately choosing outsiders and unknowns to go alongside his gorgeous and innovative post-underground autobiography comics and Mad mag style covers. Here, we see just how revered Crumb is among the early alt comics pioneers, his generous and egalitarian nature forming a magazine part incubator, part call-to-action, noted in numerous testimonials. His dark side is not glossed over. The misogynism of Crumb and the undergrounds is mentioned often, especially by female creators. And it was in this periodical that Crumb published the deadpan parody “When the Niggers Take Over America”, which fell decidedly flat among more conscientious artists, and was in fact (illegally) appropriated by Neo-Nazi publications.

Peter Bagge took over editing with #10, moving Weirdo more toward the Punk/zine movement, then Aline Kominsky-Crumb finished up 10 issues later, making an important effort to continue offering a place for female artists, as she had with Twisted Sisters in the 70’s. All three were important threads in what alternative comics were to become: a place for unheard voices.

I’ll add here one of my occasional raw counts of creator gender, from the earliest available (to me) issue by each editor: Crumb, issue #3: 12 male, 1 female; Bagge, #14: 13 m, 2 f; Kominsky-Crumb, #18: 6 m, 5 f. This is regardless of page count, which in the first two might heighten the disparity, and in the last, might tip toward the female. Weirdo‘s ground-level editorial spirit was often compared to Spiegelman and Mouly’s much-lauded and artsier Raw magazine. I’ll include a count for my earliest Raw, #3: 19 m, 3 f. Comics were an area where motivated feminists could make a real difference in pop culture.

So for a confessed comics geek/historian, this is an essential read. There are plenty of illustrations, valuable, as a Weirdo reprint collection does not exist, though copies of the original are pretty moderately priced on the internet. Especially in Kominsky-Crumb’s run, it’s a very important pop culture artifact.

Categories
Monotypes Month of Printmaking

LessPrint

At MoPrint Print Jam at the Denver Art Museum, I got the opportunity to tell the world everything I know about printmaking. Photo is by Denver photographer and photography teacher Tom Finke

Most of my major participation in MoPrint is now complete, and all of the events went pretty well.

Last weekend was the latest, Print Jam at the Denver Art Museum, produced by Month of Printmaking and featuring 14 artists giving demonstrations and drop in workshops, including me. The crowd was very steady all day (11-4), and the organizer, Emily Moyer did a great job.

I helped with the Monotype table featuring 3 artists, 2 of whom had taken their first monotype classes with me. That’s always a source of pride. I fancied that we had some of the largest gatherings at our station, but that may just be team spirit on my part.

There are still openings and ongoing shows featuring my work, as well as many many others, but the events that required planning and organization on my part are now finished, which means I’m now essentially a tourist. What a relief!

The party began early for me Saturday, as I was one of the first artists to complete my demo, and spent the day relaxing and enjoying the other artist demos as well as assisting my own team at the monotype station. I took a ton of photos and some video that I hope to turn into a MoPrint promo that I will donate to MoPrint.org, should they want it. With that project, I hope to again jumpstart production of my own videos for this site, and for my YouTube channel.

But the pace of that will be much more relaxed and leave time to produce some larger monotypes for a new show, whenever that may happen. My class schedule will also be somewhat reduced as I recharge my batteries. I’ll update soon, but the next post here will undoubtedly be about reading projects. Other than that, I’ll see you next weekend on the #studiotour and at #steamrollerprinting in April.

#moprint2022 #asldprintmakers #monotypes #denverart #artstudentsleaguedenver

Categories
Art Students League Etchings and Small Work Month of Printmaking Uncategorized

Warming Up at MoPrint

Yes, it’s fair to say that the Black Ink fundraiser at TRVE Brewing was popular.

Despite the on again, off again winter weather, MoPrint is off to a great start, and people seem to be eager to see it after 2020 was cancelled, mostly, by the pandemic. I’ve seen several shows already, which is more shows than I probably saw all 2021.

ARThropod, Artists on Santa Fe: Carol Till and Jeff Russel take differing approaches to the subject matter, insects ( arthropods also include lobsters and crayfish, etc, I believe, but I saw mostly insects in the exhibit). Carol is a botanical illustrator by trade, who has migrated to printmaking. So hers are naturalistic, though abstract elements such as chine colle and hand colorings have been added. Jeff is more known for patterning and collage, and his prints follow that approach, projecting a more decorative designerly style.

Black Ink, TRVE Brewing: A MoPrint fundraiser, and a crowded one, with lines out the door. That’s what selling editions of linocuts donated by 60 artists for $10 will get you- a madhouse. It’s rare and gratifying to see people line up to buy art, of course, but I didn’t stick around too long as I’m not totally ready for crowds yet, and I had other commitments. I’ve posted a quick snap of the craziness, and I got my share of affordable art, of course. A lot of money was raised to keep #Moprint going. No word on how my own effort sold, but whatever prints are leftover can be bought at the Open Portfolio event at the Botanic Gardens, this Saturday from 1-4 PM.

This Lino cut by Greg Santos will soon be on my wall.

ASLD Print Fair Exhibition: I’m in this show, but will nonetheless extoll its overall strength. ASLD artist such as Kathie Lucas, Mami Yamamoto, Taiko Chandler and Michael Keyes contributed noticeably strong work, among many others. The opening was also crowded and many works have already sold. It’s up through March 27.

I also saw monotypes, ink transfer prints and some very interesting oil resist prints/drawings at Edge, and a great ceramics installation at Pirate. I tried to see the Women in Printmaking show at 40 West, but it was unexpectedly closed, so I’ll try again. I’ll be out there this Friday night for the opening of SurfaceIn/sight, a national printmaking show I juried, and that I’m excited about.

I will also be at the Botanic Gardens Open Portfolio show this Saturday with a portfolio of many (mostly smaller) prints culled from the flat files and past shows. Other upcoming events are described more fully, here.

#moprint22 #printmaking #denverart

Categories
Art Shows Art Students League Etchings and Small Work Monotypes Month of Printmaking

Month of Printmaking 2022

Illustration of artist's monotype process in relation to Month of Printmaking
This monotype is one of several ghosts and variants I created from a trace monotype image I did in 2021. The chair imagery is simple, but lends itself to multiple treatments and suggests to me a state of being in the present, with the asterisk suggesting more info to come, or in other words, change. It’s about presence. Showing at Art Gym imPressed show, March 24-April 17.

It’s been a busy, snowy run-up to #moprint2022. But the pandemic seems to be easing, at least in the vaccinated parts of the state, so we can keep our fingers crossed that this one will go off as planned, unlike 2020.

I committed to a lot of events, which has kept me running, but it’ll be fun if it all comes off. Note: I do not anticipate doing the Summer Art Market this year, to give myself a break, and to re-fill my inventory. So MoPrint may be the best opportunity to see work by me this year. Of course, you can always contact me (above) for a private showing. Here’s as complete a list as I can give right now:

February 26, 4 PM: Opening for Print Educators of Colorado show at Lincoln Center, Ft. Collins. I have 2 pieces in the show and anticipate being there for the opening. The show runs through April 9.

March 4, 5:30-8:30 PM: Opening for ASLD Print Fair Exhibition, Art Students League of Denver, 200 Grant St. I’ll have 1-2 pieces in the show. There are free demos by ASLD faculty and artists upstairs. I will be here most of the night.

March 4, 5-10 PM, Trve Brewing, Broadway and 2nd, Black Ink fundraiser for MoPrint. I will have an edition of 20 lino cuts available at a ridiculously low price of $10 apiece, along with 60 other artists. It all benefits Month of Printmaking. I will be here for part of the night.

March 5, 10-4 PM: ASLD Print Fair Pop Up Portfolio show and free artists demos at ASLD 200 Grant. I will have a portfolio of selected prints available for sale, and I’ll be here all day. Prints are an affordable way to start a collection!

March 11, 5-10 PM, Core New Art Space. A show of many techniques in printmaking, that I juried from a national call for entries. Show runs through March 27. I will be at the opening, at least for the later hours.

March 12, 1-4 PM, MoPrint Open Portfolio, Denver Botanic Gardens, Mitchell Hall. This is also a portfolio show, so no framed work, and mostly small pieces that I can display on a table. I predict prices will be very affordable.

March 19, 11-4 PM. I will be doing a demo this year at the MoPrint Print Jam at the Denver Art Museum, Martin Building Creative Hub. There will be 14 separate demos ( by various artists, in various techniques), and 3 workshops you can participate in. My demo will be at 11 AM.

March 24, 5-8 PM, imPressed, opening for juried sprint show, Art Gym. I will have one medium sized piece in the show, and I plan to attend the opening. Show runs through April 17.

All info is on the MoPrint.org website, along with all of the other Moprint-associated events. I will be seeing as many as I can; hope to see you there!

#moprint2022 #ASLDprintmakers #ASLDprintfair #denverart

Categories
Besties Besties Books, Comics, Music Reading List

Close Your Eyes and Think of Besties

Over their long rich, history, the Besties have established a tradition of… um, being 3 years old and changing in format every time. Of ignoring SEO-building topics such as best-selling novels and important prose non-fiction to concentrate on the best comics. Of not always focussing on the past year’s comics and being mostly about what my limited budget and the public library gets around to offering. Not even counting down, like a proper, click-bait, end-of-year list, and sometimes starting with the Bestiest. I see no reason to change a winning formula.

A little history: I have honestly always tried to start with books published in the last year or two. Mauretania, Comics From a New World, Chris Reynold’s haunting, dystopian 80’s comics in a new collection by Seth won the first; White Cube, by Brett VandeBroucke, a very penetrating and hilarious satire of the fine arts world, the second, and Pretty Deadly: The Rat, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s noir mystery about 30’s Hollywood, last year.

I have been known to count (known) gender representation in anthologies; So I’ll give a rough count here (excluding anthologies), of white males, versus non-white male, in the 4 years I’ve named names: 30 and 33, respectively. I’ve been known to mention rampant American exceptionalism in comics history; so I’ll give an estimate of North Americans v. European/Japanese: 35 and 19. It looks relatively balanced, though of course, not an exact study.

I’ll add some Resties (honorable mentions), which include things I’ve rediscovered or newly discovered, critical writings and surveys. There will be a Bestiest of the Resties: There was none the first year; the second was Dan Mazur’s and Alexander Danner’s Comics: A Global History, 1968-Present, a much needed, non-American exceptionalist survey of comics from leading producers which opened my eyes to Japan as the first to explore comics’ potential for creative self-expression; and none the third year. I’m bringing it back.

The rules, looking suspiciously like no rules, having been murkily defined, the envelope, please:

Besties: This was a tough one this year. I eliminated a few very good ones, including Coin-Op #8, by Peter and Maria Hoey, that is actually from 2019, but I ordered it this year. The winner is also from 2019, and one of the Resties is from 2017, I just forgot to include it last year. I never got to current books by Tillie Walden and others that will undoubtedly be seen next year. I only now ordered a Tsuge collection that will almost certainly skew next year’s list. There should be an investigation:

Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber, 2021: Matt Fraction wrote the 2011 Marvel series being referenced by Disney+’ Hawkeye series. He brought buddy-movie thrills and spills to that, and now takes on the uber absurd Comics Code era DC comics featuring “Superman’s Pal” and a whole bunch of gorillas and aliens and monstrous transformations that Jimmy went through. So maybe you have to have grown up in the era of the 12-centers to appreciate the humor and the in jokes, but it’s a comic book, for gosh sakes, and Fraction, with all his meta narratives, gets that.

Bradley of Him, Conor Willumsen, 2021: I liked the post-apocalyptic hedonism of Antigone better. Willumsen is always edgy, disturbingly so, and the protagonist here is obsessed, like many of our current public figures, politicians, media figures, celebrities. The setting is Las Vegas, capital of narcissistic obsession. The soft, rubbery pencils only add to the tension, which is of course left unresolved at the end.

Monstress Volume 6, Charlotte Liu and Sana Takeda 2021: These types of ongoing series are tough to judge in installments, as I’ve mentioned before. This horror/fantasy tale is not ended yet, and I never did track down Volume 4 with the library closed for shutdown. But rereading Volume 1 did not dissipate its skin-crawling intrigue and its world-building grandeur, all its steam punk glory and dark tangled relationships. This volume was no different, and if it sometimes felt a bit pot boiler-ish, I’m not ready to make that assessment yet. So did Lord of the Rings, and that’s the echelon this tale aspires to, though it is much more violent and racially charged.

Le Grande Odalisque, Jerome’ Mulot and Florent Ruppert 2021: Three luscious, lusty, bisexually hedonistic women decide to steal an Ingres, arousing all the fire power the police can muster; and I’m sure, the scorn of the cultural guardians, both right and left. But reasonable readers will see these as action heroes with brains, wit and verve. And above all, agency- they drive the spectacular action and the loose limbed art allows for a sexy physicality without the static airbrushed obsessiveness of most action comics. This is a caper movie waiting to happen, with a subtext of revenge sex bringing a tinge of melancholy to the almost non-stop thrills. Traditional, Euro-comics genre with a modern twist.

Bestiest:

Press Enter to Continue, Ana Galvan, 2019: In candy colors, faux offset textures and simple, cipher-like drawings, this Spanish artist offers vaguely surreal stories of people who don’t quite trust their own realities. This is precision paranoia, where tigers appear to feed on the workaday masses, and people dive into pools only to run up into the inside of a TV screen. There is no rhyme or reason to these tales, only a feeling of alienation and dread.

Galvan’s style is evolving quickly. An earlier appearance in Now anthology featured a Steven Weismann-influenced short about two adolescent girl ponies lying to each other as one steals the other’s boyfriend. The pony imagery heightens the sense of loss of innocence. There is the realization that it would be nearly impossible to do this sort of story in TV or film. She has a new book out this month. The drawings are emblematic, almost ideographic, and the combination of words, colors and drawings reads like a new language. You can read it in a half hour ( though it demands to be returned to) and it costs less than $20 and is in fact, art. It’s why I like to do these Besties.

Resties:

Everything is Flammable, Gabrielle Bell: 2017. I don’t seem to have included it when I read it, probably in 2019-20, and I haven’t had the occasion to include any of Bell’s work, which is wry, subtly compelling and quietly hilarious autobiographical diary/memoir comics about her own life. The Voyeurs and Truth is Fragmentary cover her earlier years as an introverted but driven comics artist appearing at comics festivals worldwide.

This is her first full length memoir and tells of her off-the-grid mother’s struggles after losing her house to a fire in Northern California’s notorious Humboldt County. It deals with Bell’s strange ‘feral’ childhood and her fraught relationship with her mom, in light of her stepfather’s abusive behavior. All in simple yet very evocative caricature and subdued color. Again, the quality that I think makes almost all of these comics here appeal to me is that their stories can really only be told in pen and ink.

World Map Room, Yuichi Yokoyama, 2013: A quirky, recondite story of three men traveling into and thru a sprawling city to a mysterious appointment. There is a graphic unity in the way the angular black and white buildings, planes and people interact with the copious (Japanese) sound effects as if Onomatopoeia (sounds) were a player in the strange drama. Remember when Lynch parlayed ambient machine sounds into a sort of subtle steampunk horror in Eraserhead? The whole effect is unease, as if violence were imminent. However, the story remains open ended, with other chapters promised in the author’s notes, which I haven’t found. I found this on CopaceticComics.com, my go-to for catching up on the manga translations of the much lamented PictureBox books, now deceased. I became obsessed with their revivals of Garo-era alt-manga pioneers such as Hayashi and Sugiera, so I’ve been exploring modern Japanese alternatives. Japan, which has the largest comics industry in the world, has been easy to ignore because there are so few canonical translations, but that is ending, and we should pay attention.

Art vs Comics, Bart Beaty, 2012: As revealing about modern art as it is about comics. Understanding Liechtenstein’s appropriation of 50’s juvenile comics is not easy for comics fans, who often see a copyist who made millions. Incorporating pop culture innovations into fine arts is not easy for ‘high’ art aficionados, who often willfully ignore, e.g., Crumb’s obvious influence on Phillip Guston’s best work. These are essays without jargon, and without the reverse snobbery of ‘Team Comics’ that examine important visual truths about comics and art in a balanced way. I’ll be reading it again soon.

Trots and Bonnie, Shari Flenniken, 2021: Underground comics epitomized the underlying sexism of the 60’s ‘free love’ movement, but also provided a voice for the second wave feminist rebuttal. Shari Flenniken’s was a forgotten voice among those of Trina Robbins’, Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s, and others’, but no more. Her 70’s National Lampoon series has finally been collected, along with extra material and her comments. Her dark, yet very non puritanical sexual satire satisfies a need for sexual truth to counterbalance the programatic puritanism of both right and left, as evidenced by the fact that they consistently pass the laugh test. She published a new comic ( hilarious!) in a 2020 Rotland Press “Dreadfuls” anthology that was under consideration for this list. We can only hope that means her return to the fray is imminent.

Bestiest of the Resties:

Dal Tokyo, Gary Panter, 2011: I’ve gotten myself on a another Gary Panter jag. This was originally started with my Raw magazine obsession during the punk years, and revived by a purchase of Cola Madnes on the Copacetic site, from their ‘Deals’ section, which I plunder regularly, looking for gems that escaped my attention or budget first time around. Panter filters American pop culture through his own experience, separating signal from noise in dense, punk-inflected images.

Dal Tokyo is a 4 panel comic strip, first serialized in the L.A. Reader in the mid-80’s, then in Japan’s Riddim magazine in the mid-90’s through the oughts. It takes place on Mars, in a colony populated by Japanese and Texan immigrants (‘Dal’), but the original storyline peters out during its second run.

What’s fascinating about Dal Tokyo is the ways it pushes the the then dying strip medium forward at a time when other formats were beginning to emerge to stretch comics’ legs creatively. This was post-underground comics and in the middle of the punk/zine/ DIY wave of the late 70’s early 80’s.

Panter’s ‘ratty line’, an ironic, expressionistic commentary on Herge’s ‘clear line’ and classic strip masters such as Caniff, rather than a repudiation of those things, is emblematic of his punk roots. It sometimes obscures the real innovations he brought, and his relation to classic masters, such as even Winsor McKay, whose fantastic world-building Panter equals in this noir sci-fi. It relates to his harrowing Jimbo Adventures in Paradise (1988, recently re-released by New York Review Books), and the punk slapstick Cola Madnes (early 80’s, unpublished until PictureBox rescued it in 2000).

This Fantagraphics edition is 6 1/4” high, a big improvement over previous collections. But these are not the only innovations that a larger edition is good for. Panter, in Dal Tokyo, has also revived the lost art of page design in comic strips. While 3-4 panel dailies have not featured this in decades, since Milton Caniff, few explore its potential like Panter, who creates kinetic 4-panel vistas on dynamic diagonals with cross-hatched grays vying with blacks and whites.

I doubt it’s an aesthetic reach to ascribe his layered darks and lights to Japanese Edo printmaking, as Panter is a) a printmaker, and b) clearly interested in Japanese culture. At the same time, it’s arguable that this is the last of the great comic strips. Paradise and Madnes were conceived as graphic novels, however segmented and fragmentary they are. Dal Tokyo was always a strip, four panels put out at regular intervals (first weekly, then monthly).

By the second run, Panter had changed his style, working with nibs instead of Rapidograph, and his narrative approach, from sci-fi noir to abstract free association words and pictures. Yet the first two (-ish) years of Dal Tokyo, which is not part of the Jimbo stories, but features Okupant X, a kindred soul, continues Panter’s exploration of the everyman’s search for meaning in a dystopian society.

We who are passionate about the music of the era have often failed to see the fragmented poetry of Panter’s punk comics art, and how it tread a pioneering path between high and low art, as John Carlin so well described in Masters of American Comics. Dal Tokyo’s spotty publishing history shouldn’t obscure its achievement.

Note: I would provide an image here, as it would definitely be fair use, but both Besties are published by Fantagraphics, which has an extremely restrictive excerpt policy.

Categories
Uncategorized

Twigs and Berries

Very busy with MoPrint doings, as this is crunch time for planning and publicizing. I will post a full update soon, but here’s a few teasers:

I’m jurying a print show at Core Gallery. Would love to see your work! Insider’s tip: I do have a bias for strong graphic work, I can’t help it. I do try to be balanced and often choose traditional, realistic work in these situations. But a nice tension between negative and positive; or lights and darks- that’s a plus. Register here

I’ve posted a full schedule of Winter/Spring class offerings at the Art Students League of Denver on my “Workshops” page on the top menu bar..

I will be in the Colorado Print Educators Show at Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, opening February 26, 4 PM.

I will have a ridiculously cheap edition of linocuts available for purchase at the TRVE Brewing Black Ink fundraiser for Month Of Printmaking, March 4. All proceeds will benefit MoPrint’s parent, The Invisible Museum.org.

I’m chairing a committee to organize the ASLD Print Fair March 4-27. I’m excited about it. It will have an exhibit opening March 4, a Pop up show with free demos March 5th, and a visiting artist, Heinrich Too with workshop and lecture, March 26-7. More details soon.

I do have the utterly fabulous Besties awards for comic book excellence ready to post, and have been just a little too busy to post it. Look for it soon.

#asldprintmakers #asldprintfair #moprint2022 #artclasses

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Uncategorized

Interview from 2014 MoPrint

I haven’t posted this in a while. But with #moprint2022 coming up, I’m re-posting it as an article of faith that we won’t need to cancel again, as with 2020. My interview is about 4th or 5th on the page.

https://www.moprint.org/about

#asldprintmakers #moprint2022

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Art Shows Art Students League Month of Printmaking Workshops

State of the Artist

Illustrates post on 2022 schedule
“No one, I think, is in my tree..” That wasn’t on my mind when I made this, but I just watched the “Get Back” movie, so I couldn’t help it. “Tree with Moonrise”, Monotype, 2021

It was a busy holiday season because of medical appointments. Most were catch up on things deferred during lockdown, or even earlier. I’m hoping it will pay off this year with a more active lifestyle, including travel.

2022 won’t wait however. Here are some things I have planned for this year:

  • MoPrint 2022! It was cancelled in ’20 as COVID came roaring in. We’re hoping this one will have better luck.
  • MoPrint events I’m helping organize: Art Students League Print Fair, March 4-5, Demos, portfolio show and month-long exhibit. ASLD.org
  • MoPrint shows I will be exhibiting in: Art Students League Members Exhibit, March 4-28; Print Educators of Colorado, 2022, Lincoln Center, Ft. Collins
  • MoPrint Shows I will be jurying: Core Gallery Details TBA- I will post these
  • MoPrint fundraiser where my work will be offered:
  • Other shows my work will be offered: ArtMA childhood cancer benefit gala at the Denver Design Center, February 12
  • Classes offered: A full complement, from sampler, to beginners, to experienced, about one per month, beginning with an online class on ‘Monotypes At Home’ which is registering now and begins next week.
  • Kids Class offered: My ‘Mad Science Monotypes’ art camp returns July 5-8 for 14-17 yo
  • I’m still monitoring print studio sessions at the League many Sundays and Fridays. $15 a session, a screaming deal. Register online
  • Look for an interview to be posted by Voyage Denver in their ‘Inspiring Stories’ section.

Most of these take place January-March, making for a frantic start to the year, which is always true during MoPrint years. After that will be much more relaxed as I am not planning to do the Summer Art Market this year. Yes, this will be the first one I’ve missed in over 20 years, although I won’t really be missing it as I’m planning to volunteer.

I felt like a break would be good for recharging my batteries and refilling my portfolio. I also intend to explore other options such as online sales, videos and even ebooks. These are things I’ve dabbled in, but never had time to pursue properly.

While this blog was less than regular this crazy Fall. I will try to update regularly, so check back. I haven’t updated my ‘Workshops’ page yet with a full ’22 schedule, but will try to do that next week. I have many book blurbs from all my holiday reading while isolating and convalescing, too.

I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, safe New Year. Fingers crossed, we’ll begin to emerge from several very dark years and there will be opportunities for all to pursue fulfilling lives.

Categories
Ideas Month of Printmaking

End Game

What is the end game in the studio? Sometimes a deadline will bring focus, leading to a well resolved work, sometimes it inhibits experimentation, bringing repetitive ideas. I guess both- experimentation and production, are important.

At this time, I’m trying to produce new work for the upcoming MoPrint ’22, which will bring show opportunities, if COVID doesn’t cancel it again. But I’ve also had more time to work, read and think, which has brought a lot of experimentation.

Trestle With Stars, Monotype, 2021, 15×21″. Ideas of narrative, creative progression, crossings come to mind. It uses relief elements and viscosity effects to create a sort of dreamscape or subconscious landscape.

Most of these experiments haven’t turned into finished, showable work yet. Here’s one that seems acceptable. Not quite sure where the idea of a trestle came from, but from a creative stand point, it seems to allude to being carried from somewhere to somewhere else. The journey is not resolved, but a tenuous structure appears to offer support and transit over the chasm.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. I’m reading a lot of Gary Panter ( Jimbo in Paradise, DalTokyo, Cola Madnes ) He tends to really push an idea graphically, while still trying to at least allude to basic narrative. His characters invest a lot of energy and desire into quests, though what is quested (cheeseburgers, vintage muscle cars) sometimes seems quotidian or even preterite. This seems like a good model for what my studio work is trying to accomplish.

#ASLDprintmakers #MoPrint2022

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