Saturday, March 5, 2011

Comics in ArtNews

While checking out the March issue of ArtNews this morning (the photography issue), I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of short reviews of comics.  Even though comic art has slowly worked its way into the museum world, I am painfully aware that it still has a long way to go.  It was nice to see mention of these graphic novels in ArtNews, a mainstream art magazine who would have never thought comics worth mentioning ten years ago.

The art world, ever narcissistic, prefers to hear about comics that mirror and comment on the concerns, habits and stereotypical people found in museums and art world culture. It seems almost myopic in the case of  The Cardboard Valise, the first book published in ten years by Ben Katchor,which is really about the much larger topic of society’s attitudes about diversity and world culture. Katchor’s black & white, edgy people populate a vast landscape of familiar yet imaginary cities.  When the main character visits a museum (this is the section the review focuses on), Katchor tells us “not to take cultural artifacts too seriously,” by showing us a panel of a young curator from the “Museum of Accidental Art” who insists on taking the character’s pants because they have the “perfect disposition of napkin lint on navy-blue pants; they must be purchased by the state, but belong to posterity.” The ArtNews review is not on-line at this time, but you can see Katchor’s work here & here. Design-wise, I also think it's perfect that the book actually comes in the form of a cardboard valise.
The second book featured is Pablo Helguera's Artoons 3, the latest in a series that lampoons pretty much everything about the art world and museum culture.  Helguera works in the education department of MoMA, and I enjoy his inside view of things. In one panel he shows an archeologist scrutinizing a stone tablet, who turns to his assistant and says "The text is incomprehensible... it must an exhibition catalogue."   He also created a very funny spoof of the classic Chicago Style Manual called The Paulo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style. Hellguera also has an active and cartoon filled page dedicated to his Artoons on facebook.

Erro. The Tank Girl is behind him.
Also of interest to comics fans are two full page ads by the gallery representing the Icelandic artist Erro, who has been controversial for his too-close-for comfort appropriation of one of Brian Bolland's Tank Girl covers, and an exhibition review of two shows that explore Hello Kitty, and the Japanese craze for the kawaii (cute) esthetic.

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