James Lucey, A&E Editor
February 18, 2013
Filed under Arts and Entertainment
Assembled before me, like the hipster Justice League, were the artists of Story/Line: Narrative Form in Six Graphic Novelists:
Gabrielle Bell, standing a full head taller than me, rail thin and radiating a muted old world elegance. Bishahk Som, with black hair down to his ass and jeans so tight they had to be experimental. Ellen Crenshaw, bubbly and cheerful, smiling wide behind the thick curly hair obstructing her face. Kevin Mutch, a salt-n?-pepper artiste who looked something like Henry Rollins combined with Andy Warhol.
And Karl Stevens, who walked away as soon as he realized what was going on.
The Bannister Gallery?s latest show, the Story/Line: Narrative Form in Six Graphic Novelists, certainly appeals to a niche audience. You?re going to be investing a little more time in this exhibit than most. You?re going to be reading? a lot. But the work on display offers something to validate your endeavors: a story.
In step with the art, which spans a range of styles and qualities, are also narrative stories. Herein, an entirely new component of art appreciation is triggered. You no longer consider the palate, line work and background alone. You are forced to reconcile word choice, dialogue and exposition against the visual medium.
?Most artists are no damn good with words.? Kevin Mutch admits as I probe the Hipster League of America for answers.
?I wanted to be an animator, but I was too lazy.? said Ellen Crenshaw. Mutch replied, ?I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I was too shy.? I wondered if there was a difference between the kind of creative block a writer gets versus the kind a graphic novelist experiences.
?I don?t have the block, it?s easy to imagine the next thing, visually.? said Mutch. ?Depends on the kind of story,? Som interjects, ?I always start with a script.?Now the artistry became evident.
Bishahk Som?s work orbits around the dialogue. A lot of flowery vocabulary and really specific foods. In ?Da?ara City,? Som uses a static aerial landscape perspective to form a narrative with multiple magnifications of city residents.
I mentioned earlier that Karl Stevens lost interest in my discussion with the artsy defenders of truth and justice and meandered off. This was disappointing. Stevens? work is among the most appealing on display. A stark realism stylized by heavy cross-hatching, Stevens offers amusing content. Most of the panels from his work are episodic, representing a period past in Boston. There?s a beagle?s contemplative internal monologue, a bunch of topless nudies, a selfie of Stevens getting baked at 3 a.m., and my personal favorite, ?Reason no. 9901 not to ride the T on acid.?
Ellen Crenshaw?s work had more a film than comic feel to it. This was ironic, considering that she herself admitted that her work was basically storyboarding. Crenshaw has a cool little story to tell, though. The disappointment of a deflating romance represented in a cartoony, fantastic format.
I didn?t realize it at first, but Crenshaw is responsible for my hands down favorite piece of art ever on display at the Bannister Gallery.
A tandem project with Stephen Cartisano, ?America?s Past Time? is an ultra-disturbing depiction of a bloody-thirsty baseball ump. The composition is super clean, and atmospherically bleak. If you have two minutes, read this comic. There?s a nice twist, even if it is a bit of a logical fallacy. The dialogue is as striking and stylized as the artwork, as the ump declares ?They will do whatever is asked of them?if you simply tell them it?s alright.? Yeah, some dude gets iced with a bat.
Gabrielle Bell has ten comics on display, word heavy with a recurrent bear motif. Kevin Mutch wins the creativity award for a panel-by-panel recreation of an old school comic. The clincher being that Mutch provides his own original narrative, satirical and honestly funny.
I would argue these graphic novelists are more complete creatively than many who only deal with only one artistic medium. There isn?t a great deal of cross section between visual and verbal artists. As someone who can tackle any of the performing arts with gusto, but completely suffocates when forced to represent something visually, I cannot understate how impressed I am with these indie weirdos and their work.
Story/Line: Narrative Form in Six Graphic Novelists runs through March 1st. The Bannister Gallery is open to visitors Tues through Fri, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.