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Having reviewed Blab 12, 13 and 14, there's a danger
of having little new to say about Blab 15, the latest in this excellent series
of collections of graphic art edited by Monte Beauchamp published by
Fantagraphics. It features many of the
same artists from the previous books, including Camile Rose Garcia, Walter
Minus, Baseman, Blanquet, Fred Stonehouse, The Clayton Brothers, Sue Coe &
Judith Brody, Greg Clarke, and Drew Friedman.
The quality of production is high and the work is arresting and
original, even if some of it is very similar to art that has appeared in
previous books. Rather than describe
each artist, I'll just focus on a couple of pieces.
Maybe because it is so reminiscent
of outsider art, I'm particularly drawn to "Four Horsemen" by Reumann
and Robel. These are four pages of
black pen drawing on white paper, with fantastic images full of bizarre
details. There are clearly some
religious themes, especially in the fourth page where signs are marked with
"Dieu," (French for God), "Beyond," "Faith,"
"Reincarnation," and various Christian symbols such as crosses. The other pages have strange creatures, diners,
hooded figures, executions and contortions.
The pages are so full of small drawings that it is almost impossible to
take in all the details, and it would take a better interpreter than myself to
work out what it all means. Even
without the help of the title of the piece though, it would be easy enough to
identify the images as apocalyptic though.
One of the effects of becoming more
familiar with the work of some of these artists is that one notes how one's
reaction to their work changes with repeated exposure. I think I was puzzled and even non-plussed
by the work of the Clayton Brothers previously, but on seeing their
contribution here, "Home, Take Them Out," I find myself more
thrilled. It is a colorful painting,
maybe some kind of oil paint on a hard surface like wood. The sharp definition of some of the lines in
the work suggest some drawing was
involved. It is an utterly bizarre
work, with two adults and a younger person.
The man who looks a little like Thom Yorke of the band Radiohead, wears
a helmet or hat with the letters "DF" on the front and a T-shirt with
"Rock and Roll Sushi." His
left arm is extended with three hands attached: one holds a hose, one also
holds the hose and has a small yellow bird sitting on its wrist, and the third
seems to be scratching the head of a green cat walking upright and holding
cardboard carton like you get from a Chinese restaurant, with "Day Time
Fun" written on the side. The
woman wears a short green dress with large yellow dots. She is riding a deer whose right left leg is
bandaged. Behind her, holding on round
her waist, is a doleful creature looking like a teddy bear in underpants. Behind the deer is another cat walking
upright, wearing a T-shirt with the logo "Rosco's Chicken and
Waffles." The cat is black, and
has a beautiful pattern in white around its left eye. In the center of the picture is a boy-like being wearing black
jeans and a white T-shirt with a "Mr. Softy" logo, sitting in a red
wheelbarrow. He also has a pattern over
his face, in green, but it extends beyond the borders of his face suggesting
that it may be made of eyebrows and eyelashes rather than being something
painted on his skin. On his lap stands
another teddy bear creature in white underpants, dribbling. In the background are trees and patterns,
and in the foreground a hand extends towards a faucet coming out of the ground
to which the other end of the hose is attached, looking like it is going to
turn on the water flow. It is hard to
impossible to say what it all means, but it feels like some kind of family scene. Emotionally, it is both funny and alienating,
with the two adults looking blankly at the viewer rather than at what they are
Some of the pieces in Blab 15
are political, some tell stories, some are colorful and some are dramatic black
and white drawing. Nearly every piece
has a forceful emotional tone to it, with lots of caricature and iconographic
energy. The tone is crude, rude, countercultural and subversive. Much of it is also psychologically twisted
and angry, yet at the same time there's a great love of the pictorial language
of popular culture expressed in these images.
It is very different from most comic book art and it is especially
removed from the world of the contemporary art scene that you might find in the
Chelsea art galleries in New York City.
Fantagraphics deserves high praise for supporting this work. Recommended.
© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of
the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at
Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online
Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine,
psychiatry and psychology.