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Comics roundup

Post #1410 • October 28, 2009, 8:47 AM • 47 Comments

Radio Boston did a great segment on the upcoming issue of Inbound, in which Boston Comics Roundtable members played out the contribution by Cathy Leamy. The BCR website has been recently and handsomely redesigned by Shelli Paroline. I have a two-pager in the aforementioned Inbound, in which I interpreted a passage of Thoreau's journal.

An alert reader sent in this New York Times profile of Molly Crabapple, who will grace us with her presence at the next meeting of Dr. Sketchy's in Boston.

Sadly, I laughed.



Chris Rywalt

October 28, 2009, 9:19 AM

I'm hoping tomorrow to be going to a "reading/signing" for the Act-I-Vate Primer, which includes some of the comic artists and writers from the studio down the hall from mine. Molly Crabapple, who has a comic in the book, was profiled by my studiomate Chris Irving earlier this year.

I flipped through the Act-I-Vate Primer when I was in the studio last time. I didn't get a chance to actually read it -- I will when I buy a copy, I guess -- but it looked really interesting. Some comics in it are made to look like they were scanned from old newsprint, some are full-on tributes to Jack Kirby-style storytelling, some definitely look like navel-gazing indie comics. An entertaining melange.



October 28, 2009, 10:25 AM

More or less breaking news:

Riley resigns from MAM

Obviously, the real reason for the resignation is not necessarily the one proffered, but aside from that, we have this:

Mr. Riley, formerly chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, will resume his role as a partner at Keenen/Riley Architects. Mr. Podhurst said the museum would form a search committee to find a new director. “Architecture is his first love,” Mr. Podhurst said. “That’s what he wants to do, and I think it’s a good deal for both.”

So what the hell was MAM doing giving him the director's job in the first place? I said from day 1 that this guy was an architecture wonk with no business as a museum director. Looks like somebody proved me right. Way to go, MAM--and thanks for confirming, yet again, my longstanding opinion of you.


that guy

October 28, 2009, 11:07 AM

Well Jack, you see what they collect and who they hire. It has been clear to me they have had their heads up their proverbial you know what for quite some time now.



October 28, 2009, 11:07 AM

One more comics item: Gilbert Bouchard Memorial Art Show: Visions of Comics is up at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton through Friday.



October 28, 2009, 12:03 PM

The saddest thing, of course, is that such an outfit as MAM would ever get so much public money handed to it, when the damn wording on the ballot (which is all that most voters knew of the matter) never specified where exactly the money was headed. And don't get me started on what MAM had (or rather, did not have) to show for itself in terms of an actual track record to justify such largesse. Well, maybe I just don't understand; this may just be a Norwegian thing.



October 28, 2009, 4:46 PM

Actually, even though I originally had qualms about being off-topic on this thread, it now strikes me that the whole Riley/MAM business could fit rather well under the Comics Roundup umbrella. Needless to say, not all comics are especially funny.



October 28, 2009, 6:52 PM

Jack, everything could fit under the umbrella of 'comics roundup' if we wanted to reduce things to that. Franklin, I'm still trying to understand how your things fit in the 'comics' category. It all strikes me as some kind of SNL humor, high school level understanding of politics, junior high school bathroom jokes...What am I missing?

Dallas once knew nothing about art, but wanted to, but was too proud to admit that it didn't. So Dallas went for decades making a fool of itself. Is that where Miami is?



October 28, 2009, 7:31 PM

Oh, no, Tim. Miami is at the very pinnacle, give or take a few light years. It has Art Basel Miami Beach, you see, an exceedingly upscale traveling circus that, for a few days each winter, gives everyone who's anyone delusions of grandeur. Or relevance. Or something (could be just gas, but very upscale gas, naturally).

Though really, to be fair, there were already delusions of grandeur afoot before the Basel thing started, certainly among our major collector class. Or crass. Whatever. The thing is to be major and, of course, seriously fabulous. Very serious. As in serious unto death. Or maybe that's trendy unto death. I always get that confused (apparently, so do the majors).

But all that's just my opinion. You shouldn't listen to me. I'm just a pothead, after all, and hopelessly unfashionable (it's congenital, actually). A pothead without delusions. Or illusions, for that matter.



October 28, 2009, 7:45 PM

Your finger is clearly on the pulse, Franklin... I hadn't heard about the memorial... then again, I'm not in Edmonton right now.



October 28, 2009, 7:46 PM

Here's some pretty decent pot(s):

Hagi A1
Hagi A2
Hagi A3
Hagi A4

Hagi B1
Hagi B2
Hagi B3

These are the two most characteristic Hagi glazes, milky white and loquat-colored.



October 28, 2009, 7:48 PM

Well, if it's any help, Jack, now D/FW is so full of the real deal, it's hard to keep up with it. But only on the institutional level. The 'art scene' in Dallas, though apparently as sophisticated as anywhere, is as vapid as it is everywhere.



October 28, 2009, 7:51 PM

The HagiA is the finest yet.



October 28, 2009, 8:14 PM

Sadly, Tim, at the institutional level Miami sucks. Although we now have an "erotic art" museum (in South Beach, naturally) and a museum wing devoted to art schlock, I mean art glass. I'm afraid the fabulousness around here is mainly reserved for the art scene, with its bevy of major collectors and their various pet personal art ventures/venues.

Oh, and that Hagi rocks. I especially like the inside. I'm a sucker for a good interior.



October 28, 2009, 9:19 PM

I'm still trying to understand how your things fit in the 'comics' category.

Comics is juxtaposed images in a narrative sequence. (Thank you, Scott McCloud.) And while many stupid, forgettable things have been done with the medium, many lovely and moving things have been done as well. I can recommend some better titles if you're interested.



October 28, 2009, 9:54 PM

Thanks for the link, Franklin. Critical bastard that I am, I'm disappointed that in McCloud's examples, the artistry didn't equal the ideas. But, yes, I'm always interested in lovely and moving things. Thanks in advance.



October 29, 2009, 6:51 AM

Great post!!



October 29, 2009, 7:24 AM

Jack, do you actually own these, or are you admiring them at a distance?



October 29, 2009, 8:06 AM

Franklin, more about McCloud's presentation: I have a really hard time extrapolating the Sunday funnies from Egyptian glyphs, Maya scrolls, etc. I was looking at some excerpts from 'Disasters of War' (Goya) at the Meadows at SMU the other day. That and 'Caprichos' would seem to me to be among more likely descendants.

Are those lovely and moving things you mentioned handy?



October 29, 2009, 8:44 AM

Franklin, the pot pictures I've posted were not taken by me, though in certain cases, like the black Oribe a while back, the pot has become mine.



October 29, 2009, 8:51 AM

That's what I meant - whether all these were additions to the collection, or if you just had your eye on some of them.



October 29, 2009, 8:56 AM


Tim, don't get cartoons and comics mixed up. They're linked in history, but they don't need each other. Those Goyas are very graphic and have a sort of narrative element but in the end are a collection (my friend Pedro Moura writes about comics and distinguishes between series and sequence). There are lots of great comics (Franklin's included) that aren't cartoons at all.

As for the glyphs etc, they occupy a place where image and word bleed into each other. Matt Madden and Jessica Abel recently published a comics text book called "Writing Words and Drawing Pictures" which I think is a great way of saying it. To me that leads to some of the analytic cubist ideas about how to depict and render space and objects, but that's a secret project I'm toiling at.



October 29, 2009, 8:57 AM

Pot pictures? What is this, High Times?



October 29, 2009, 10:00 AM

wwc, this might be splitting hairs, but outside of the 'comics' community, if there is such a thing, I don't think the term 'comics' occupies anybody's wheelhouse as associated with fine art. I'd be more likely to refer to work like Franklin's as something like 'sequencial art,' to relieve it from the lowbrow associations of 'comics' in the lay imagination.



October 29, 2009, 10:02 AM

I hear you Tim. I hate the term "comics", it's as misleading as "cubism."



October 29, 2009, 10:14 AM

May I digress and note the 40th annivrsary of the birth of the internet? I was thinking that the world has gained ultra-now at the expense of, for one thing, patience.



October 29, 2009, 10:18 AM

But Tim, it took us 40 years to get here? That's patience? We've been waiting all this time for twitter!



October 29, 2009, 10:21 AM

I meant, "That's patience!" Sorry. Wasn't patient enough to preview.



October 29, 2009, 10:27 AM

The problem with the pot thing is that it's addictive (though it doesn't fry your brain). Quite unlike the regular art scene, where finding something really good is a needle in a haystack scenario, Japanese ceramics, even at a very affordable level, is a kid in a candy store scenario. It's an embarrassment of riches. Tradition has had such high yield for so long that there's no question it works--and how.

The trouble is not finding really good stuff, but controlling yourself so that you don't try to buy everything. You have to learn to discriminate between degrees of excellence, which is a heady experience. This involves becoming very sensitive to nuances and subtleties of shape, glaze, texture, decoration, coloring, "accidental" effects, aging effects, inside/outside, clay character, and on and on.

By comparison, the official art scene is risible--or not even that, since it tends to be a bad joke.


Chris Rywalt

October 29, 2009, 11:15 AM

But some people simply don't have the temperament to deal in such fiddly details. These pots and the commentary that goes with them strike me as very Japanese, or anyway Japonisme, with its attention to extremely fine grains of difference and dedication to narrow definitions of craftsmanship and tradition. If that's your thing more power to you, but it's unfair to place it at the "good" end of the spectrum from the contemporary art scene. I don't think they're on the same balance beam.

It might be more apt to compare your pots to comics or "sequential art" (which term I don't prefer and don't really know anyone who does -- the creators I know who work in comics are proud to work in comics). The Japanese, of course, are crazy about comics, also, and there's the craftsmanship and tradition angles to them. But it's a newer field, too, even if some comics people, in an attempt to gain credibility, round up things like Egyptian hieroglyphs into their fold. It's more open, perhaps, but certainly more accessible to people who don't feel the need to obsess over minuscule details.



October 29, 2009, 11:29 AM

Chris, the "narrow" is your perception or you, but it's not how I see it. The field of Japanese ceramics is amazingly rich and varied, which is part of the appeal. You can throw around words like "obsessive" to disqualify something that doesn't reach you, but again, I don't see it that way. I see it as refining or purifying perception or taste, an exercise for the eye and one's discernment which leads to improvement of both. No, I suppose it's not for everyone, but that's a moot point. Most of what passes for fine art these days is not for me and Japanese ceramics are; that's more than enough reason for me to reject the former and embrace the latter.



October 29, 2009, 11:49 AM

Besides, it's not a question of this or that detail, but rather of the conglomerate of details that make up the whole, and how well the whole works as a result of the quality of its aggregate parts. A pot is like an organism, organic--it's literally made of earth, after all, but fashioned by human sensitivity as part of an ongoing continuum. It's not some stupid "spin painting" cranked out by a machine or the result of high-tech computer program manipulation, for instance. And considering that pots are made to be used, to be functional objects for real life, their beauty or aesthetic value becomes even more remarkable, not to say wondrous.



October 29, 2009, 12:01 PM

Well put, Jack.

Most don't have the temperament to discern 'fiddly details.' And? Art and taste have always been a matter of leveling. I don't get your issue with that.

Re 'sequential art,' I wasn't commenting about the terms comics 'creators' or you prefer. I was commenting about the perception of the 'lay imagination.'



October 29, 2009, 12:02 PM

The last two comments in #32 are meant for Chris.



October 29, 2009, 12:34 PM

Chris, I make comics and I dislike the term. So now there's one you've heard of.

Sequential art is a little weird too, but it does fit the part of comics that starts to overlap with "regular" art. Jack Kirby - comics. Chris Ware - comics with design. Franklin - Paintings in sequence that work like comics.



October 29, 2009, 1:29 PM

OK. So what about Hogarth and things like Marriage à la mode?



October 29, 2009, 1:38 PM

Or Rubens' Marie de Medici series?



October 29, 2009, 2:58 PM

There are also serial or sequential Japanese print sets, the most common topic probably being The Tale of Genji.



October 29, 2009, 3:50 PM

Here's a small, simple Shino tea cup or yunomi, too "ordinary" for use in a formal tea ceremony. In other words, something for routine, daily use:

Shino 1
Shino 2
Shino 3
Shino 4

I find it both beautiful and fascinating. It has great character; it has, indeed, life--the life put into it by someone with the capacity to do so (the potter's mark is on the unglazed base next to the foot). It is as natural as it is convincing, apparently tossed off casually yet formally rock-solid.

You get your aesthetic kicks where you can find them, or at least I do.


Chris Rywalt

October 29, 2009, 6:37 PM

wwc sez:
So now there's one you've heard of.

Present company was excepted, of course.

Chris Ware - comics with design.

Funny you should mention Chris Ware. He's got four pages in the latest New Yorker and I was nearly moved to write a negative review. It's so shallow. I'd call it nothing but design. And to me it shows contempt for the medium with its poor dip into storytelling.

I guess you can't go around cutting people out of media just because you don't like them, though.

I think that "paintings that work in sequence like comics" are comics. An attempt to come with a new term is just an attempt to put distance between oneself and a term seen as derogatory. I'd rather see the term worn proudly, myself, without trying to absorb things that don't belong (Egyptian hieroglyphs) and exclude things seen as somehow less highbrow (Superman).

But that's just me. I don't make comics myself so I don't suppose it's my place to argue about it. And I don't really feel that strongly about it -- I'd don't think less of you (or more), Warren, for preferring the term "sequential art". Ultimately there's the work, whatever it's called, and that's what's important.



October 29, 2009, 6:53 PM

"An attempt to come with a new term is just an attempt to put distance between oneself and a term seen as derogatory. I'd rather see the term worn proudly, myself..."

Terms will, if they are to have any place, have to earn it.



October 30, 2009, 5:44 AM

Jack, what is the info on the Hagi yunomi above? Is it old?



October 30, 2009, 7:57 AM

Chris, you make a good point. like the homosexual community that has comandeered "queer" to be a positive, the term "comics" should be able to proudly worn.

For me it's that it has very strong meaning - when you say "I'm a painter" I'm sure some folks think Kinkaid, but most people understand the wide range of expression painting can hold. That just isn't true in comics - witness Tim doubting Franklin's work fits into comics earlier on this thread.

My friend Pedro hates the term "sequential art" - he wears "comics" proudly, but he lives in Lisbon where the Euro-comics tradition isn't so exclusively attached to juvenalia.

Part of the problem is the bastardized form itself and where it starts and ends - there's a lot of examples of those porous borders in previous posts on this thread.

All I'm saying is:
1. Franklin's work is comics (and quite good)
2. I don't like the term since I think it is misleading (at least in the US)

Also Chris, I'm with you on Ware. Fantastic formal chops but usually pretty hollow.



October 30, 2009, 8:39 AM

OP, both the Hagi pieces in #10 above are new, meaning made very recently.



October 30, 2009, 9:17 AM

In case you meant the Shino yunomi, OP, I'm not sure about the age, but I expect it's older, probably on the order of 30-40 years (in other words, XX century). The style, of course, is timeless.



October 30, 2009, 10:14 PM

They are all damn good, for sure.



November 2, 2009, 8:39 PM

i think the pots definitely qualify as art pieces. the only slight downfall to a degree could be the size of some of these pieces. things that small can feel a little precious. i have a very nice small axel salto cup/bowl/vase, whatever you want to call it and it's diminutive size plays a part. yet, the size seems appropriate.



November 3, 2009, 8:14 AM

The size of the pots is determined by their intended function, since they are meant to be used, not simply admired. The great thing, or one of them, is that functional objects could have such aesthetic value.



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