Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Big Wow! 2013 - San Jose

Enjoyed visiting the Big Wow! Comicfest at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend. It was a total throwback to the "all toys, art and comics" pre-Hollywood show WonderCon used to be. In fact there was rampant speculation about the status of Big Wow! and if they were making an attempt to become the show that fills the vacuum WonderCon left behind (what's wrong with Oakland, we all wondered). This year Big Wow! printed a nice program book, spent a wad on bringing in Stan Lee and promoted the hell out of it. I thought it was a good promotional move to visit local comics stores a couple of weeks ago on Free Comic Book Day and post photos of the events on Facebook. Seemed like a good crowd while we were there. Someone in attendance actually lost their paycheck out on the floor, and was reunited with it 5 minutes later (there was some unintentional humor in all the announcements, but I could have lived with less of them).

A collection of Bruce Simon's essays for Mineshaft Magazine.
There wasn't the type of programming we've come to expect from big shows like SDCC, but there was a community oriented emphasis that was really interesting. Live drawing, an archery booth with NERF arrows for kids, a CosPlay fashion show and a rock band.  Artist's Alley dominated at this show, taking up the center and back, with the rest of the small exhibit floor filled with book sellers, comics sellers, comic art dealers, toy vendors, Aspen Comics (Frank Mastromauro was there selling Turner pages, the only publisher with a booth) and tables for fan clubs. We really enjoyed the chance to talk with artists without a million distractions. I scored a copy of Bruce Simon's Mineshaft essays and a couple of his Burlesque posters (Blaze Starr! She's a Human Heat Wave!), a sketchbook and How to Train Your Dragon rough from Aaron Lopresti, an Arthur Adams sketchbook, and a Winged Victory poster and sketchbook from Brent Anderson (Astro City is coming back! Yay!). Marc was thrilled to get a Lady Mechanika iPhone cover from Joe Benitez.

I hope this show continues to grow. It had a good vibe. APE has a totally different audience, and no one we talked with wants to go to two Southern California shows two or three months apart.

Lady Mechanika iPhone covers. Looks like they are
mainly being sold at shows, although you could try the Facebook page.

Currency - SFAI at the Old Mint

Vernissage by
Tony Maridakis
I had a look at the San Francisco Art Institute's MFA Graduate exhibition at the Old Mint on Mission & 5th over the weekend (you can see the catalog on this page). Maybe it was the weathered environment of the Mint building itself, but almost every piece that attracted me seemed to be about texture.  I enjoyed seeing the work of Tony Maridakis (left), Marcella S. Davis, and the video installation Winter Solstice by Andreanne Michon.

One idea that particularly captivated me was a group project, the theoretical Museum of Exhibition History.  I agree that exhibitions can shape our ideas about art, but exhibitions are a thing of the moment, painfully reconstructed through catalogs, grainy documentary photos and reviews buried in archives. The thought of completely reconstructing a long-ago exhibition seems daunting. It would be an art historian's dream to jump in the time machine/Tardis/Delorean and see influential exhibitions from the past. Apparently, they reconstructed parts of the first YBCA Bay Area Now show in April at SFAI's Diego Rivera Gallery. Good luck to them, and I wish this idea would become reality some day.

I also liked The Dress Factory an installation by Momo Yao that used fabric, photos and paintings to tell the story of Yao's visit to a dress factory in China and the conditions there,  and Lauren Visceglia's Dream Project which featured rough bowl shaped ceramics with crystals inside.  An interesting show. Best of luck to the graduates!