hey Everybody I'm back! My blog here is for my writing, to check out my art work go to my website judekillory.com.I would love any feedback. I will be offering reviews and thoughts on comic and comic related events. I will post a new essay every Friday, thanks for your time and any feedback you want to give. Jude
Walking into the small confines of MoCCA I am immediately greeted by a piece by the New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno. “Well, back to the old drawing board.” reads the caption that is separated from the image in a fetching duo framed matte. This is a historical cartoon, and is smartly placed front and center to greet you to this Lascaux cave of comics and contemporary art. It is one of the finest examples of how humor and a whimsical drawing style transcend their humble role in society. You can’t linger too long because of how aware of the energy that is in the room. Look to your bottom right there’s an original Dan Clowes piece eschewing America. Peek up at the top left of the wall the art is mounted on and you see an ugly Muppet-like character trying to eat its sexually ambiguous self, painted by Dana Schutz. The eye of Harry Potter seems to be staring at you, well at least the actor who played him in the films. Above the Arno piece is a clock with a hundred hands, again an appropriate introduction to a show curated by painter and cartoonist Keith Mayerson that seeks to redefine or include work that art historians have overlooked in the past. Turn the corner and where do you look? I chose to circle for a bit like a caged animal, taking in my surroundings. Then I retraced my steps and went and stared at an ink drawing made by Windsor McCay portraying Uncle Sam. It seemed like a good place to start.
This is the second version of Neo Integrity-the comics edition. The first was held at the Derek Eller Gallery in 2007. The same curatorial aesthetic is at play here, a schizophrenic collection of artists bunched together to bring back a sense of humanity to the viewing of art. Bunched is the key word here. Both shows had over a hundred artists presented. The current exhibit at MoCCA has close to 250 artists and over 700 pieces on view. It is literally hung from floor to ceiling. There was some thought or maybe some philosophy at least to how the show was hung. Students who have graduated from the School of Visual Arts two years prior receive some of the best real estate in the museum while Basil Wolverton drawings hover in a far corner where it is almost impossible to see, and yes that was intentional.
The first show came with a manifesto that championed sublime intentions, the creating of aura, and a humanistic and less capitalistic driven desire to understand and appreciate art. It came straight from the heart of Keith Mayerson, and despite its ambiguity and sentimentality, or maybe because of its sentimentality it stands as a brazen act in the context of the hyper rich and powerful art world-an offering of a Marxist flower to the purposely disenfranchising art moguls. The manifesto is so ambiguous though that the current updated version is practically the same as the original, with the only difference being the word art was replaced with the word comics and artist with cartoonist. It’s easy to pick apart text that is so grand in its ambition and yet so vague in its direction, but to Mayerson’s credit it justifies having a rugged and exquisite Bob Camp Conan the Barbarian drawing next to Matt Madden’s obstruction exploration pages on one side and a dreamy, gothic oil painting done by Ellen Berkenbilt on the other. Mayerson is the anti-Eddie Campbell, the intention of art and the cartoonist and artists is always malleable and always looking to be defined as the same thing-a progressive idea. Anything can be a comic and all comics are Art.
The 11th point in Mayerson’s manifesto concerns “aura” and this is where Mayerson is defining himself in the cartooning world. The belief that a rough sketch for a gag comic that has Sir Mix A Lot receiving a sheet of paper that has his rap lyrics grammatically corrected is the equivalent to a painted on pillow case from the Dick Tracy film that explores issues of how shame effects images of gay sexual identity. TM Davy’s piece is clearly creating a shared physical and emotional experience with the viewer, but how much is a pre-production penciled drawing affecting us. At times it feels more like an exploration of the craft of comics and not necessarily the intention of the cartoonist. Comics though are changing; the digital aura of comics has yet to make its full impact on how we will be viewing and enjoying comics. Mayerson convinces by sheer magnitude of work that yes the process is an idea, and that art is fueled by ideas. With the potential disappearance of hand drawn imagery getting to see the work before it has been digitally manipulated becomes as informal as a DaVinci sketchbook and conceptually tied to Rauschenberg’s Erased Dekooning drawings. There are photocopied prints of Craig Thompson and Guy Deleslie in the show as well, Mayerson is not a slave to originals, the mass produced print has its own aura. Al Jaffe’s work in the show is also seen in a new light. So used to being able to fold the back cover to make the “A” and “B” meet and see the hidden image that to stare at the original unfolded flat image with the knowledge that a whole new context of both words and pictures lies in the image turns the mind into a scrambling frenzy. Mayerson would argue how is that not post-modern conceptual art?
I think the issue of comic art meeting aura is an important one for me personally because to be fair I can’t claim to be objective about the show. I helped hang it. I got to hold a Robert Crumb page in my white cotton gloved hands. As well as a Jim Woodring, a Jules Feiffer, that Dan Clowes page about America. Dan Clowes is responsible for my searching for what is possible in the comics medium and here I am in a museum holding one of his pieces. This isn’t just a moment for a scrapbook because holding those pieces of Bristol board in my hands wasn’t much different than holding a trade paperback that has the piece printed in it. This is important for what it says about class and what the working classes are offered in terms of having meaningful connections to art. The chances of me getting to hold a DeKooning piece or a Picasso piece in my hands are slim, but along with a bunch of young rag-tag SVA students I got to hang out with the work and soak it in. I immediately went to the Windsor McCay piece because I wanted to see what the illustration, that a few days earlier was in my grasp being studied by my eyes inches off the page, looked like in a museum setting nestled amongst other amazing works trying to not feel awkward being hung up on a wall.