I love a good story, but then, who doesn't? Getting swept up in twisty plots, conniving characters, or lush settings is, to me, one of the great joys of literature. (Oh no, here comes the lofty part: I also think it's one of the great joys of being, you know, human.)
Yet my excitement to lose myself in a story can be frustrating when it comes to my love of comics. Logically, I know that each panel and page layout was a deliberate, calculated choice, and that each panel is full of interesting composition, color choices, and all that jazz. But sometimes I just can't keep my eyes from racing to the next speech bubble or caption. Which is sad, really, because so many comics have absolutely gorgeous visual artistry within their tales.
So what better way to assuage my guilt than with Gallery 1988's inaugural show, The Indie. The San Francisco incarnation of the famed L.A. gallery opened over the weekend in conjunction with the Alternative Press Expo. The show featured art from some of APE's most outstanding artists, offering a nice way to indulge in the visual artistry behind the comics.
The show is generally fantastic, and there are too many stand-out pieces and artists here to name all of the great ones. So, let's get it out front that I think you should go see the show. Now. And if you're one of those people who need to base their decisions on "reasons," then keep reading.
Some of the stand-outs include lovely Jack Cole-esque ladies from both Don Shank and Kevin Dart, San Franciscian Scott Campbell's sweet watercolor adventures of Little Ogre Head, and Vera Brosgol's adorable girls on bikes driven by enslaved beefcakes. The completely wonderful Graham Annable (of completely wonderful Grickle fame) showed two pieces full of his stories' characteristic, forlorn charm. Jeremy Tinder contributed several strangely captivating paintings of bloated figures and polo-shirted bear-men in desolate landscapes dotted by factories and/or colored blocks.
But, these are just my favorites, and I'm admittedly a gigantic sucker for retro-flavored, pop-oriented, candy-colored whimsy. Pieces of a different vein included Sanjay Patel's ultra-cute digital illustrations of Hindu deities, Nick Sung's moody watercolors of urban life, and Derek Thompson's globby, dark monsters.
Since comics are, by their nature, an intensely laborious medium, it makes sense that the comics artists featured here would be pretty outstanding draftsman. Add in the fact that many contributors to the show have sharpened their skills in an animation background, and the quality of all of these pieces becomes ridiculously professional. Though some of the paintings are purely whimsical and maybe a little indulgent (see: pirates and cowboys and Star Wars), these are not the thrown-together hipster goof-offs that can pop up in other shows featuring hot young artists.
The crackling energy behind the stylish visuals and their subject matter encapsulate why indie comics are just so exciting. These mostly renegade, labor of love projects run the gamut in terms of what is actually being represented in the pieces -- a cute, hip decoration, a captured moment of deep emotion, a slice of a larger narrative, or just the simply hilarious. But one thing alt comics artists all seem to have in common is a simultaneous respect for nostalgia and an almost crazed push towards innovating within the comics field. Mindful risk-taking is the sweet spot in terms of engaging, complex art, and a walk through this show is sure to both get the synapses firing and satiate the comics junkie's appetite for delicious eye candy. Plus something tells me that the next time I pick up a book from any of these artists, I'll find it a little harder to simply speed along through the words.
The Indie runs through May 12, 2007 at Gallery 1988 in San Francisco.