Abstract Animation

Yesterday an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on the post-war German, and eventually international, network of artists called Zero closed.  I had never heard of the group or most of its members, but it was a great exhibit and an interesting moment in (art) history…

One of the recurring themes for the group and many of its members was movement in art, either literally art with moving parts, or optically, creating the impression of movement.

Vision in Motion / Motion in Vision exhibit at Hessenhuis, Antwerp 1959

Vision in Motion / Motion in Vision exhibit at Hessenhuis, Antwerp 1959

As such, it was interesting that one of the earliest group shows, whose distinctive installation (seen above) the Guggenheim mimicked in part of their own exhibit, was called Vision in Motion – Motion in Vision.  Held in an old industrial building in Antwerp in 1959, it included some moving pieces, proto-op-art pieces implying movement, and one abstract animation by the American Robert Breer.

The Breer piece included in the Guggenheim was Phase Forms IV, from 1959, and the above animation, Eyewash, was from the same year, the earliest piece I could find by him online…  The piece I saw at the Guggenheim, maybe more than this one, reminded me a tiny bit of a better known 1965 semi-abstract animation by that American animation giant, Chuck Jones:

Kindred spirits-ish…

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The Cartoon Picture Plane

Two newly opened New York gallery exhibits have varying connections to comic and cartoon art…

Saul Steinberg's 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

Saul Steinberg’s 1974 Rainbow Reflected at SculptureCenter

SculptureCenter‘s first exhibit in their newly expanded gallery takes as its point of departure space as depicted in comics and cartoons, specifically citing the 1988 live-action/animation hybrid movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit alongside New Yorker illustrator Saul Steinberg as influences.  From the exhibit website:

Incorporating a sense of wonder and humor, concepts surrounding animation and cartooning are expanded into an exhibition that enacts a similar sort of hysteria around flatness and depth in relation to technologies, real and illusory spaces—physical, virtual, internal, and external.

The emphasis on Steinberg probably has to do with the fact that 2014 is the centennial of his birth, in honor of which The Saul Steinberg Foundation has been promoting centennial exhibits & events at galleries and museums around the world.

Takashi Murakami's 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

Takashi Murakami’s 2011 An Homage to Monopink 1960 B, from Sims Reed Gallery, London

The other comic-related exhibit I was thinking of has a more tenuous link…

52-year-old Japanese artist Takashi Murakami made his name with the Superflat art movement he founded, inspired by the visuals of Japanese anime and manga.  He’s best known for this style, using the super-cute Japanese pop culture aesthetic of kawaii and engaging with the otaku culture of anime and manga fandom.

That being said, he’s also mined more classic Japanese art history and cultural traditions.  His current show at the Gagosian Gallery consists of art made in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis.  After studying earlier responses to natural disaster in Japanese art, he has created an immersive installation combining traditional art historical forms, Buddhist and Shinto religious iconography, and contemporary pop culture imagery in response to that national tragedy.

I’m assuming the art here won’t be as relentlessly sunny and poppy as his other work, but it’ll be interesting to see how he applies his Superflat aesthetic to a more tragic subject…

Do you know of any other comic, cartoon, or comic/cartoon-inspired exhibits going on in New York?  Or anywhere else?  Let me know!

Illustration Week 2014 Plus

Today is the start of Illustration Week 2014, with panels, exhibits, and screenings on illustration, comics, and animation at several New York institutions including the Society of Illustrators and SVA.  In addition to the official events, I have a couple of other, relevant events you might want to add to your calendar this week…

Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen

Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen

The weekly New York Comic Picture & Story Symposium actually has two events this week, the regularly scheduled one on Tuesday about late Medieval religious cartoons by Marlene Villalobos Hennessy of Hunter College and an extra meeting on Wednesday with Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen on his work.  Both events at the New School at 7 pm.

Then, on Friday at 6:15 pm, as part of MoMA‘s To Save and Project film series of recently preserved film from around the world, a night of cartoons by the legendary Winsor McCay, famed creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland!  The event is moderated by animator and animation historian John Canemaker, author of the 2005 book Winsor McCay: His Life and Art.

The event is programmed in part for the 100th anniversary of Gertie the Dinosaur from 1914, the first cartoon to use keyframe animation among other techniques, so that will of course be part of the programming!

Panter & Kalman in New York

Two comics-ish events today and tomorrow featuring two interdisciplinary art, comics, & illustration luminaries.

At tonight’s New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium the underground-influenced painter, illustrator, and cartoonist Gary Panter will…  Actually, I’m not really sure what he’ll be doing, so here’s the official NYCPSS description of tonight’s 7pm event at Parsons The New School, 2 West 13th Street:

Gary Panter attempts to invoke the unfolding lotus of the 1960s by thumbing through an old magazine missing pages – LOOK, Jan 9, 1968.

LOOK magazine, January 9, 1968

LOOK magazine, January 9, 1968, subject of Gary Panter’s talk(?) tonight

If you want something a little more structured, idiosyncratic illustrated book creator Maira Kalman will be at the New York Public Library for Books at Noon in light of her latest releases, Ah-Hah to Zig-Zag and My Favorite Things, both of which were inspired by items in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum‘s collections.

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman

And in conclusion:  Hello again faithful readers!  Sorry for abandoning the blog!  Not sure if anyone noticed, but since I haven’t been thinking of comics & opera any less since my last update (all the way in June!) I figured I’d try to revive this hobby blog!

Since we last spoke, I’ve launched my own little webcomic at SebaSM Comics!  It updates twice a week with mostly autobio-ish gag comics, so I’ll be sure to plug those here too 😀

Ok, see you around!

MoCCA Fest Review

Hopefully any of my followers who would’ve gone to the Society of Illustrator’s annual Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art convention that happened this weekend didn’t need me to remind them about it, because I am off my game as a blogger lately; sorry!

Vacationland Book 1, by Jon Allen

Vacationland Book 1, by Jon Allen

Anyway, in lieu of a MoCCA Fest announcement, I thought I’d do a quick review of just some of the amazing artists I got to know!  In no particular order (besides alphabetical):

Mercworks comic, by Dave Mercier

Mercworks, by Dave Mercier

Jon Allen has a pretty depressing funny-animal comic, Ohio is for Sale, up on his website, and I was also very interested in his 3-part book Vacationland, about an in-the-family affair in a Maine vacation town.

Rachel Dukes‘ journal webcomic doesn’t update too frequently, and is mostly about her cat, but it’s adorable, and she has other comic stories up on her website too.

Dave Mercier’s Mercworks webcomic is good clean irreverent fun.

L. Nichols has an earthy style, appropriate for his Gardening Comics; I was especially interested in his Free People comic, combining images from a clothing catalog and found text for a new comic.

Toril Orlesky is a RISD alum and the creator of Hotblood!, a webcomic about centaurs in the old west (genius!).

Also, two poster designers!  Spur Design of Baltimore are the pretty high-brow, Society-of-Illustrators-award-winning illustration firm, whereas Matt Chic of Brooklyn brings his cartooning sensibility to his punky gig posters.

Hotblood!, by Toril Orlesky

Hotblood!, by Toril Orlesky

And finally, I’ll plug tomorrow’s New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium, featuring Sophie Yanow and Sam Alden, both published by Uncivilized Books which exhibited at MoCCA Fest.

Sophie Yanow will discuss her comics, especially her engagement with urban design, evident in her memoir and collaboration with Canadian Center for Architecture, and Sam Alden will discuss the effect of materials on comics narratives.

Annie Gave Me Noise, by Sophie Yanow

from Annie Gave Me Noise (2012), by Sophie Yanow

Putting the “Book” back in Comic Books

Two events spanning the history of book design and illustration this week; not quite comics, but should be at least marginally relevant and totally edifying I think!

First up on Tuesday, the New York Comics and Picture-story Symposium presents Patricia Mainardi, art history professor at CUNY, who will discuss how advances in printing in 19th century Europe helped usher in both a boom in book illustration and the invention of comics.

And on Friday, the Center for Book Arts will host the concluding talk in a series devoted to the history of book design, this time focusing on 21st century issues in the field.  Suggested donation of $10 for the talk, and free access to the Center’s three exhibits.

The Natives are on TV

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

Les Indes Galantes at Opera National De Bordeaux

In honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, Opéra National de Bordeaux is putting on Rameau‘s 1735 opera Les Indes Galantes (which I’ve discussed before), and Medici TV has your front row, live streaming ticket today!

The opera is structured as four love stories in four “exotic” settings; last time I shared excerpts from the North American and Persian settings, so here’s one from the Peruvian story in a different production by Les Arts Florissants at the Paris Opera:

For a more modern, but still Bizarro Twins appropriate, depiction of Native Americans, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York is offering daily screenings of installments of the Stories from the Seventh Fire, a series of cartoons inspired by Anishinaabe folklore through Sunday.

The series by Canadian director Gregory Coyes can be purchased through Green Planet Films.

The animation is in parts inspired by the art of pioneering Anishinaabe Canadian artist Norval Morriseau, which is also on view at the NMAI.  Here’s an appraisal of some lovely Morriseau pieces on Antiques Roadshow, if that floats your boat like it does mine.

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau

1968 painting by Norval Morisseau