For this recently put together publication:

Which the gallery is selling for $5.00. I plan to release all of its written content in the following weeks on this blog. First, the curator's note I wrote:


Rene Magritte’s “This Is Not a Pipe” tells us we are wrong about something we know we are inherently right about. This is a Comic Book does the opposite. It tells us we are right about something we inherently know is not true.

Representations (like a page unstuck from a comic book) activate all conceptions one has about the “real” object (and its platonic form). But amputation, decontextualization, and museumification serve to separate us from objects even as they allow us to physically be close to them. In the case of comics, the platonic form is the comic book: 32 pages, glossy cover, stapled, newsprint, and if possible, with slight yellowing. But that’s not what we get at exhibitions about comics. That would be too simple. In this paradox is a metaphor for the shedding of meaning that occurs to objects that have been ripped out of their historical, cultural, and physical roles and inserted into any one of the hundred of thousands of white-walled rooms across the world (some of which are inside buildings that used to serve an idiosyncratic, functional purpose in their society. Now: gallery).

Viewed as if it was not the product of an unreliable narrator, This is a Comic Book amply presents examples of several divergent paths comics have followed since the boom in independent, individual viewpoints (as opposed to collaborative creations from large companies) occurred in the late 60s(and mid 80s (and late 90s))). This includes work in abstraction, “art-school” comics, autobiography, genre re-imagining, mini-comics published independently, and web comics – as well as work that negates any discernable classification by entirely challenging what we think makes up a comic book.

But that is not “A Comic Book.” Or even representative of the majority of the comics industry; it’s barely representative of the “Indie” and “Arty” comics that typically interest the New Yorker/Book Forum stereotype. It is instead a selection that touches the lines, jumps the gutters, and succeeds in contradicting itself over and over again. We see things as new which are deeply ingrained in tradition (Dorothy Gambrell, Phonzie Davis) and things as old which break new ground at each successive turn (Chris Day, Conor Stechschulte). We see the mastery of “technique” in Nate Powell’s work but also the mastery of “technique” in Anders Nilsen’s. We are challenged by initially inscrutable narratives but also enveloped inside worlds that seem so much like our own. In other words, the selection is scattershot: just like the meaning and practice of comics.

Like independent music in the mid to late 80s, comics are in the midst of a creative revolution. And when the major labels came calling for that music, typified by bands like The Butthole Surfers, The Replacements, and Sonic Youth, they morphed it into a stultifying something else altogether, “Indie.” That co-optation by the major tastemakers denuded what was interesting about independent rock – namely its independence. Like punk rock, which loses all meaning when it is shrink-wrapped and footnoted, the immediacy of these comic visions is obscured against the white walls of the gallery. But this work, like the independent bands on SST and Subpop in the 80s, is undeniable. It calls out for public scrutiny and art world acknowledgment, not despite its “low” art pedigree but because of it. That relationship, the tenuous line between acceptance and co-optation, is at the heart of this exhibit and its accompanying catalog. We hope you enjoy it.

Jimi Payne & Colleen Grennan"

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