Strips, Scripts and Scapes: Contemporary Comix in Southern California
Since the turn of the century, a heterogeneous cadre of artists has been churning out contemporary comics (often referred to as comix) in their basements, bedrooms or studios to a hungry fan base with an insatiable appetite for their work. Flying below the radar of the general public only familiar with superheroes in long-underwear, this uncategorizable scene of visionary artists have no guidelines to delineate their work beyond their interest in the intersection of contemporary art, storytelling and flirting with comic strip conventions.
Like mainstream comics, comix rely on the culmination of narrative language and visual imagery. These artists set themselves apart by coyly playing with conventions. In the current climate, two approaches predominate but are no means exclusive: those artists that are creating deep, affecting narratives within the boundaries of traditional comic strip seriality, and those that push comix to the extreme--breaking the page, leaving tape and glue marks in their work, writing in obscure notes to the reader, and just generally ignoring clean lines and straight-forward story-telling. Strips, Scripts and Scapes draws from these two approaches.
Today's contemporary comix grow from a diverse lineage including but not limited to George Herriman, Will Eisner, Charles Schultz, R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar and Gary Panter. As the contemporary art world has tended to focus on increasing inclusion of up-to-the-minute technology, many of these artists still rely on or at least reference the handmade mark-making process. In recent years, much activity has centered in Southern California, with standouts including the Comicon convention in San Diego, Giant Robot magazine and store, Family Store, Hope Gallery, Ooga Booga and numerous one-off events and zines.
Work exhibited in Strips, Scripts, and ‘Scapes comes from an umbrella cast of artists influenced by or working in the Southland, but it is by no means comprehensive. It serves as a tasty sampling of printed, hand-drawn and collage comix art, in addition to sculpture and installation work by artists working within the vocabularly of comix. The exhibition features the work of Sammy Harkham, Johnny Ryan, John Pham, Mike Bertino, Travis Millard, Rusty Jordan, Souther Salazar, Brent Harada, Walt Holcombe, Martin Cendreda, Mary Fleener (story by Harvey Pekar), Taylor McKimens, Roberta Gregory, Mark Todd, Esther Pearl Watson, and Megan Whitmarsh.