Monday, January 31, 2011

New work/ exhibit: FANTASTIC STANZAS at Anchor Graphics

  Julia V. Hendrickson, "B-b-but, I d-d-didn't mean..." (2009-2011)
Photo polymer etching in blue-grey ink, with collage, on cream paper
3.5" x 5" (image), 8" x 10" (sheet)

 I am very excited to announce the following solo exhibition of my recent print-collage work! More here.

February 4th–March 26th, 2011
Opening reception, Thursday, February 10th, from 5:00-7:00pm
Anchor Graphics
263 S. Wabash Ave, Room 201
Opening soon at Anchor Graphics, Julia V. Hendrickson presents new work in the solo exhibition FANTASTIC STANZAS. These hyper-realistic photographic prints, collaged with the graphic, overblown qualities of cartoon imagery, are surreal paradises where logic exists in a constant state of warfare with elements of the unknown. Futuristic machines assemble in peripheries, lurking with a subtle violence that is subverted only by the presence of satire and play. Small objects are made monumental, skewing perception of the visual space and placing them outside of time. Each scene is a constructed illusion—stanzas brimming with narrative implications—filled with poetic fragments of an unfamiliar everyday.

Anchor Graphics is a not-for-profit fine art press that brings together, under professional guidance, a diverse community of youth, emerging and established artists, and the public to advance the fine art of printmaking by integrating education with the creation of prints. Anchor Graphics is a program of the Art + Design Department at Columbia College Chicago.

FANTASTIC STANZAS will be on view Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm and Sat. 2pm - 5pm, through Saturday, March 26th.

 Julia V. Hendrickson, "gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers" (2011)
Photopolymer etching in brown ink with collage on Japanese paper
5 x 7" (plate), 9 x 12" (sheet)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: "Chicago's Current Comic Affairs"

This week I wrote the "Eye Exam" review for Newcity, a longer piece that I've been working on for a bit. You can find the published version here, and my extended version of it below, with links to many of the artists' websites. The MCA's New Chicago Comics show closes tomorrow, so get over there whilst you can!
 Eye Exam: Chicago's Current Comic Affairs
 By Julia V. Hendrickson

Enrique Chagoya, "Return to Goya No. 9," 2010

(January 24th, 2011) Comic and cartoon artists work quietly but profusely in Chicago, drawn, perhaps, to the functionality of its gridded streets, city blocks like frames on a page. Comic book and specialty bookstores like Quimby’s and Challengers flourish because there is an audience for experimental narratives and a vibrant community surrounding comic art. In reaction to such public interest, January brings a flurry of exhibitions related to comic and sequential narrative art.

For those interested in historical context, the Block Museum in Evanston offers a small but superb collection of prints in “The Satirical Edge,” with work from the 1950s to the present, all using graphic comic and cartoon imagery for socio-political commentary. The majority of this collection features a group of artists, the “Outlaw Printmakers,” who were part of a 2004 exhibition at Big Cat Gallery in New York. Most striking are Tom Huck’s series of small-town narratives depicted in large, hypnotically intricate woodcuts. A handful of R. Crumb comic books from the early 1970s are the only direct connection to comics, but the influence of comic art is evident in works like Richard Mock’s bug-eyed linocuts and Enrique Chagoya’s collaged accordion book.

Chagoya’s newer work is also prominently displayed, and includes an etching from his latest edition, a dancing, demon-chased Obama, a subtle revision of Goya’s “Los Caprichos.” The Block aptly compliments the “Satirical Edge” with a concurrent exhibition of prints by eighteenth-century caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson.

Corinne Mucha at Las Manos Gallery (click to enlarge)

A survey of twenty-two contemporary Chicago comic artists is shown at Las Manos Gallery in Andersonville. Titled “StatiCCreep,” the exhibition, like many presentations of comic art, is a visual overload, without coherent direction. Hung salon-style, the work tends to blend together. There are sketches, comic-book page layouts, hyper-realistic fantasy cover art and an animated cartoon.
After sifting through the stereotypical breasts and biceps of mass-produced comics, a few artists offer engaging alternatives. The prolific Jeffrey Brown indulges in uncharacteristic, yet funny, zombie illustrations. Nicole Hollander’s classic “Sylvia” strips and Heather McAdams’ strange, endearing portraits of famous country singers represent the seasoned newspaper syndicates. Happily, emerging artists also play an active role in this exhibition, such as Lucy Knisley, whose intricate pen-and-ink drawings reveal a deceptively sweet style with wry undertones. Corinne Mucha’s witty one-page comics function as short stories and hypothetical worlds, with a suitably simple line and engaging dialogue. Wisely, in the back of the gallery, many of the artists’ books are offered for sale, providing a much-needed opportunity to read and reflect on larger bodies of narrative work.

Lilli Carré, excerpt from "A New Leaf," 2009, at the MCA 

Concurrently, the Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on four local, working artists in “New Chicago Comics.” Jeffrey Brown makes an appearance, along with Lilli Carré, Paul Hornschemeier and Anders Nilsen. It’s quite familial, for Brown, Hornschemeier and Nilsen all belonged to the same small collective from 2002-2008 called The Holy Consumption, a weekly drawing exercise and promotional venture. Despite the closely cast net, however, all four artists are pioneers, redrawing boundaries and offering new insights into the narrative possibilities of comic art.

The stippled, delicate intricacies of Anders Nilsen’s lines quietly obscure the bizarre morbidity of his story. Jeffrey Brown’s frantically filled sketchbooks and his fascination with cats add dimensions to his often-dour persona. Lilli Carré’s work stands out in her adept ability to transition between multiple modes. She doesn’t limit herself to creating work solely for publication, and instead maintains her graceful, unique style throughout thoughtful experimentations in narrative, artist books, and animation. Her triangle-nosed figures are mesmerizing, commanding solitary spaces where wondrous things can happen. 

What is lacking in “New Chicago Comics” is a cohesive institutional understanding of the medium. The title is a misnomer, for the majority of the work shown is neither new (much of the work spans the last decade), nor truly intended for exhibition. The oft-overlooked issue with presenting contemporary comic art is its intended final product. Most of the time the end result of comic art is a printed publication, a book or a zine, but problematically museums and galleries insist on showing comic art that is in transition. Blue-pencil and ink drawings require subsequent colorings and reproduction, and when printed are meant to be physically held, read and absorbed on multiple levels. Viewers automatically reached to turn the pages of Carré’s artist books, and closely hunched over the cases protecting Brown’s sketchbooks as if poised to dive in. As a result, “New Chicago Comics” begs for a reading room, an interactive display of the artists’ books, to be handled alongside the originals, allowing for tactile interaction and an appreciation of both imagery and text.

Paul Hornschemeier, from "The Three Paradoxes," 2006, at the MCA (click to enlarge)

Unfortunately, as a result, Paul Hornschemeier’s work suffers the most from the presentation. In order to highlight his multi-faceted drawing styles, instead of just showing varied work, Hornschemeier’s entire book, “The Three Paradoxes” (2006), is printed verbatim on vinyl wallpaper. The book is a highly experimental graphic narrative in both style and form, yet most of it is plastered illegibly high on the wall. His blue pencil and black ink drawings, pieces that are intended for publication and subsequent stages of inking and coloring, are the only original work of his that is displayed.

The art world’s reliance on simply plucking pages from soon-to-be books does not do full justice to an artist’s intent. Exhibiting working drawings is only one facet of comic art; it can be a useful aid, but is too often an endpoint. Comic art, when pushed to the walls, is strongest when it can simultaneously function as a singular work as well as a piece in a larger narrative. The four artists in “New Chicago Comics” are seasoned and talented enough to recognize this, and the pages presented are certainly powerful in their own right.

Ultimately, despite technicalities of display, the comic art currently presented in Chicago is engaging and exciting because many of these artists function as modern philosophers: posing and answering mundane, existential, and wildly hypothetical questions with grace. These artists work as skillful storytellers, playing with, and against, the ever-dangerous, charming nostalgia of comic imagery.

Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago,“New Chicago Comics,” through January 30. Las Manos Gallery, 5220 North Clark, “The StatiCCreep: An Exhibition of Sequential Art,” through February 6. The Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, “The Satirical Edge in Contemporary Prints and Graphics,” through March 13.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Look: Fantastic cards from YeeHaw Industries

Will you just look at the hilarity that is rolling off the YeeHaw Tennessee presses? I have had the phrase "Butter my butt & call me a biscuit" stuck in my head for weeks! I just know it's going to pop out at an inopportune moment. They've also got some timely and tastefully typographic Valentines, like "XOXO".

Tender Moments with the Godfather, $20; Butter my Butt, $13.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Video Documentary: Paul Muldoon, on poetry and the creative spirit

Five Dialogues, Paul Muldoon from Wunderkammer Magazine on Vimeo.

This inspiring interview of poet Paul Muldoon was recently released from Wunderkammer Magazine, filmed and directed by a friend, J.M. (Jason) Harper, and his colleague, David Michael.

Muldoon is the poetry editor at The New Yorker, and was one of Jason's professors at Princeton University. After being introduced by Jason to Muldoon's work this summer, I have plunged back into his Pulitzer Prize-winning Horse Latitudes (2006) recently, and it is a rewarding and stunning experience. Read aloud, it bewitches; read to oneself, it evokes laughter and invites revisiting. One of my favorite poems, Eggs, can be heard read by Muldoon in a 2007 NPR story here. It's worth it.

Note: Jason's other film projects (commercial, documenrary, music video, and narrative) can be found here. (My other favorite of his is Drug Police).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Music: New singles from Seoul, by Peterson Goodwyn

My dear old friend Peterson recently finished a stint teaching English in South Korea, and upon his return to the hallowed halls of Pennsylvania has just released two new singles recorded in Seoul. He's a talented fellow, a drummer and music producer hailing from the soft arms and sweet caresseses of the Good Luck Joes and the tender but fierce ministries of Saw Fist Tree.

The two new singles from his self-titled project, Peterson Goodwyn, can be found here. A side: Dream About, B side: Yes, English!

More to be released on February 1st and 15th!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poem: "Alla breve"

Alla breve

Why do
painters, painters
of houses,
beards matching
pigeons, drink
five red
Coke cans,
flush, with
stories of
houses under
their nails?

In painted,
empty houses
they follow
hair, hair
floating to
final destinations,
tangle sticky
in distracted
spider decor.

Loose tufts
waft white
as milkweed
from fingers,
caught dry,
on hot
biscuit tongues.

How did
they seem
painters, painting
then, young?
Stand in
cotton, hair
blown, against
trees? Still
bright summer-noon
teeth, big
pie sliced,
bottom-lipped smiles,
cutting the
eye of
their grin?

               - JVH

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Video: The camera's turned back towards The Sartorialist

Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist fame was recently featured in an Intel-sponsored short documentary. It's beautifully produced (wish I knew who directed it!), and a fun insight into the mind of working blogger/ photographer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Claudine Isé's MCA 12x12x100 review

As the Museum of Contemporary Art completes its 100th 12x12 exhibition in ten years with Jessica Labatte, critic Claudine Isé of Bad at Sports makes a cogent case for an MCA New Year's resolution: re-think it.

Claudine, thanks for vocalizing issues that are often overshadowed by the glamour and excitement of contemporary work appearing in an institutional context. They asked for your input-- now let's see if they listen up.

"And that’s the problem that I have with the 12 x 12 series as a whole. It’s too much about giving every artist their turn, and not nearly enough about ambition, innovation, and critical expansion of an artist’s practice (and an audience’s understanding of it). I’ll be even more blunt: 12 x 12 shows rarely feel special. The work by artists that is exhibited in this smallish gallery off the MCA’s main entryway is no better, and more often than not it’s significantly less good, than the work that that same artist has shown at a local gallery."


"The MCA needs to do more to make this opportunity count. 100 shows and almost 10 years is long enough to prove the Institution’s commitment to emerging local artists. Now, I think it’s time for the MCA to expand that commitment into something more lasting and meaningful by taking a long look at how they allocate their resources and at what they, and more importantly what their artists, truly want and need from a 12 x 12 exhibition."

Read the full review here.