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Monday, September 9, 2019

Vamos

Episode One Hundred Forty Three: Vamos.
In which we go.

1 comment:

  1. From left to right:

    A detail from “Untitled” (1946) by Isamu Noguchi. I spied this at the National Gallery of Art, Modern Wing, this August, and was arrested by the graph paper – more probably by the contrast between the ordered, specific, graded lines in the graph paper and the bold, indelicate, uncooperative ‘primitive’ ink figures. Love that graph paper.

    Stacked tin boxes as part of the sculpture “La Fete de Pourim” (1988) by Christian Boltanski. This work is on display at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, CT, and the two times I’ve encountered it I’ve found it arresting. Three tall stacks of weathered tin boxes each display an etched glass photograph – a black and white close up of a child's face - with bare wiring snaking up to clipped lamps illuminating the ghostly portraits. I have never looked closely at artist or detail, but both times I’ve seen it the piece has caused me to stop and sit, and brought to mind the Holocaust. As it turns out, this is exactly what the piece is about, and a central theme to all of his work.

    On a whim, I took a brush to these boxes and scrubbed the ink with some water. This is the first time I used that technique in these comics – Ben Katchor uses wash for shading in Julius Knipl, and I love the feel of it, but thought it was too far from the feel of a traditional newspaper strip. I realized immediately that it was the right choice here, pulling everything together.

    The third frame is a Giacometti piece that lives at the National Gallery of Art, Modern Wing, in Washington D.C., “The City Square” (1948).

    The final frame is from a quick snapshot I grabbed of “Skyscrapers A” (ca. 1929), by Josef Albers, “sandblasted opaque flashed glass and frame,” Yale University Art Gallery. It’s a shiny etched-glass piece with a deep black background, the etchings horizontal white lines of varying thicknesses, stacked, conveying an impression of a city skyline, layers of floors.

    The image I grabbed, however, was incidentally muddied by the (unseen at the time) reflected background that muscled its way forth when I heightened the contrast in preparation for drawing. The most apparent ghost here was the EXIT sign shining in the upper right corner. An enigmatic accident.

    While I finishing up, I happened to be listening to the Pixies “Sufer Rosa” (1988), and at the point that I needed to add the title to the comic, the song “Vamos (Surfer Rosa)” came up. It seemed to match.

    There’s a tension between feeling as though I need to create a ‘relatable comic with identifiable characters inside a traditional strip format’ and the impulse to ‘simply lay out four or five unrelated frames that are compelling in some ineffable way.’ The traditional strips (however intentionally subversive to convention they might try to be) are so much harder to pull off, but are so satisfying when they do work.

    That other impulse, however. The four unrelated frames. In this case, four copies of other people’s work. It feels like a cop-out, but every one of those that I’ve done: “Intersect,” “Emulsion Erosion,” “Algorithmic,” “Form Factor,” (to name a few), are nearly all so perfect, and it intrigues me that I look at them as shortcomings, because they bring me so much pleasure.

    This one turned out to be a home run. There was some manipulating 'in post,' and one of the most significant changes was that I shrunk the second frame to give it room to breathe. I added a framing black line to delineate the (now breathing) space, and this ended up being corrupted on the left-hand side. So suddenly there's a theme of borders not working - the graph on the left leading into nowhere, following a strong containment on the top and left; the failing border on the second frame, the absent border on the lonely walkers, and the degraded noise-artifact texture that characterizes the final image ... leading to the strong sentiment of the lurking EXIT message. That specific thread was totally unintended when I drew it, but it made itself known. Borders suck, find the exit, Vamos.

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