By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Along with Tim & Eric, the video auteurs who have been actually keeping Adult Swim’s edge alive are the Brooklyn-based multimedia enclave PFFR, who record addled rock music and make gallery art, and who stretched the limits of decency and humor with their two-season “kids’ show” for MTV2, Wonder Showzen. Since finding a home at AS, their most remarkable achievement has been a totally fucked-up animated series called Xavier: Renegade Angel a cryptic, recursive, ridiculous spirit quest/criminal investigation rendered in a clunky video-game cubism. The protagonist is a hirsute, beaked, six-teated humanoid with a snake for a left arm, and sneaker-clad backward legs, who poses questions like, “I flip more lids than a monkey in a soup kitchen ... of the mind! Does this make me a hero?” in a voice remarkably similar to that of Keanu Reeves. The recently released, essential two-DVD set collects the first two seasons, and it appears there will actually be more — a blessing if only for its infuriating effect on the whining anime fanboys who only tune in for the Saturday night J-porn marathons and reruns of Family Guy and Futurama.
While we’re torturing geeks, I have to put in a good word for Andrei Molotiu’s Abstract Comics: The Anthology, also from Fantagraphics. Given the historical simultaneity of modern art and graphic narrative, and the considerable amount of crossover between the traditions (Japanese ukiyo-e prints, pop art, etc.) it seems odd that there hasn’t been a movement to bring the language of nonrepresentational painting into the narrativizing sequential structure of comics. As editor (and contributor) Molotiu points out in his introductory essay, artists like Hans Richter and Oskar Fischinger were quick to successfully translate geometric abstraction into the equally narrative-prone language of cinema. Many of the best works here could in fact be storyboards for animations. But the thing is, most comic readers are primarily interested in the medium’s conventional storytelling potential, often vitriolically so. The collection has a wealth of rewarding material, some of it awkward, some groundbreaking — on the whole, it is a significant historical document that may jump-start an actual new genre. I’d have liked to have seen the fine-art examples reproduced on equal footing with the contemporary comic art, and some love for Jess and Oyvind Fahlstrom, but that’s what volume 2 is for, right?
Fantagraphics (again) certainly delivered big-time on the second (and probably final) collection of primitive comic savant Fletcher Hanks’ You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, as well as with the almost-as-weird Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941.
It has been harder and harder to find underrecognized areas of graphic design — a notoriously self-cannibalizing visual field — to revive and valorize (or crib from), but Dan Donahue has come up with a doozy with Ultraviolet: 69 Classic Blacklight Posters from the Aquarian Age and Beyond, which promises that each of the winged, blue unicorns, righteous soul brothers, floating crystal palaces, and many, many naked hippie couples will “shine brilliantly” in the presence of a black light (not included). The Red Book: Liber Novus by Carl Jung makes no such claims but compensates with a deeper, more heartfelt and artistically significant array of personal mythological symbolism. Created during a prolonged period of craziness after his split from Freud, Jung’s Red Book is more than 200 hand-painted illuminated manuscript pages chronicling his experiments in “active imagination” — basically dreaming while you’re awake. Hidden from public view until this year, its publication by Norton — and current exhibition of the original at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC — are significant moments in the history of analytic psychology. But the real surprise for most will be seeing what an interesting and accomplished painter Jung was. Having just gotten around this year to reading Deidre Bair’s excellent 2003 biography of the depth-psychology patriarch, we know the guy was something of a dick. And clinical psychology is no excuse for being a dick. Luckily for Jung, philosophy and art can be.
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