Tuesday, March 31, 2009

3 reviews, 1 video, 1 booklet

Here are three reviews, one for the show, and two for the money... I mean, for the glory of Warren's work. I have to say that there are a few minor mistakes (I, Pedro, am not the artist, André Lemos is, I'm just the suspicious looking character) and differences of attitude - I'm always insisting this is a show on COMICS, so stop using prettied-up words... Anyways, enjoy:
Erika Howsare's article for C-Ville.com: here.
Brendan Fitzgerald's article also for C-Ville.com: here. (watch the video at the end)
And Laura Parsons' article for The Hook: here.
And here's a direct link for the small cut-out, fold-up, rock-on book Warren did for the C-Ville paper, a variation on both his oeuvre and the show. ***

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Threesome interview...

Now, don't get me wrong... the title is a little joke.
David Erklund, who runs his own video company in Charlottesville, Videography, made a small documentary/piece on the show. He promised he would get back at us as soon as he had the whole thing finished, which he did, and we thank him for it and his sympathy. He's cool. That's him filming away during the opening night!
So, you can check on youtube, here, the short statements each of us (Warren, André and I) gave. I look horrible, but at least you can also see Warren and André.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gallery talk

image by Ilan Manaouch

Thursday I'll be giving a Curator's talk at the gallery as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book:

Festival of the Book at Second Street Gallery

Please join us on Thursday, March 19, at 6:00 pm for a talk by Warren Craghead III, as part of this year's Virginia Festival of the Book.

Warren, who is the co-curator of Second Street's current Dové Gallery exhibition Impera et Divide, will be discussing examples of art-comics by artists working around the world.

This talk is FREE and open to the public, with artwork and books available for sale.

We hope to see you there!

Catherine Barber
Associate Director, Second Street Gallery

Monday, March 16, 2009

Visual log of the greatest trip ever

Wednesday 03.04.09

Two weeks ago Pedro Moura and André Lemos came to visit us here in Cville for the opening of the show. They stayed at our house and we had a great time, both working hard to get the show up and sitting around late at night drawing. They were the best guests and friends and Annie, Violet, Ginger and I still miss them.

So here's what might be an illegible log of what happened. That first image was of Wednesday where I worked with the gallery folks to hang the show all day, then drove up to Dulles to pick up the guys. We spent the 2-hour drive down talking and then passed out once we got home.

Thursday 03.05.09

Thursday we had both little girls with us as we went to the gallery to finalize everything. Pedro worked to organize the mountains of books and art we had there as André helped finishing the hanging. The preview opening that night was packed and we saw lots of folks. We ended up at a party at a board members house and then eventually at my house, drawing together on the kitchen table until late late late.

Friday 03.06.09

Friday we went back to the gallery for more organizing, went by the UVA Art Museum to see the Oliphant show, then hung out at my house until it was time for the opening. Again we went downtown and met more people - more artists at Friday's opening which was good (see the laurel leaves and strong sword arm of victory?). Afterwards we ended up going back home where the Portuguese boys cooked a tortilla and we ate and talked with Annie until late.

Saturday 03.07.09

Saturday André painted that crazy mural on The Bridge while Pedro hung out with mya family at the park and the gallery. Later he cooked fish for all of us and it was delicious. That night more talking then drawing until very late.

Sunday 03.08.09

Sunday we said goodbye to Cville and I drove the guys up to DC. We saw Obama's house and ended up at the Hirshhorn with Truly and Carol seeing the Bourgeois show, then a crappy comics show at the Native American Museum, then a great little Guston show at the National Gallery. I finally and sadly said "adeus" to the guys at Truly's house in Capitol Hill and drove home. They stayed there and flew out the next evening.

(I cross posted this over at my blog too.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Blowing one's horn.

Or actually, one's friend. André Lemos left a present for Truly and Erin. Lovely, disturbing little critters!

Warren/André jams.

Ok, now that Warren has shown you the drawings he and André did together, the ones he kept, I'm showing you the ones André brought with him...
My participation in this jam was like those guys playing the drums or cracking the whips in galleys... Playing music (not always good), making sure they were in good spirits to work, swapping pages, etc. A little pleasure for a midget amongst giants.
We hope this'll make it as a book!

One comic-related show in Charlottesville. Oliphant.

I forgot to tell you about this. While we were in Charlottesville, we also had the opportunity to check on the travelling “Leadership: Oliphant cartoons and sculpture from the Bush Years” show, held at the University of Virginia Art Museum. Although it had a handful of older work too, comprising cartoons, rough sketches next to the final work, most of it were really cartoons related to the Bush Administration years. Pat Oliphant is one of the most interesting political cartoonist of the United States. I have to confess that I failed to understand something like 40% of the jokes, given the fact they were always very local, despite my familiarity with some of his work (and other contemporary American cartoonists). For instances, not knowing who Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was or with kind of shenanigans he was involved did not help to understand a few of the exhibited cartoons, but a quick explanation put me into the joke.
Oliphant is a real master: he takes a no prisoners, no holds barred attitude towards every single politician one can think of, and sometimes their figuration is very strong (Bush as a wide-eyed kid, with cowboy hat and all, Rice as a parrot, etc.). this lead to an interesting discussion with some people we met. I said that I though that one can not think of a single honest politician (actually I think that that adjective is incompatible with that noun), but some folks guaranteed me that they do exist. Vice-President Biden is one of them, I was told. I'll try to learn and follow if this is really a possibility. However, Oliphant's work will nott help me in this, and all the better for it. Moreover, as the great masters of social commentary and political critique via caricature and cartoon (practically the same), Oliphant makes good use of the caption, the title, the sentence. More often than not, text in Oliphant's cartoons is not redundant, but a confirmation and a true “punch line” of that which was brought by the image.
In this sense, Oliphant is an inheritor of old masters of political cartoonism/journalism such as Gillray, Rowlandson, Cruikshank, Daumier... So it comes as no big surprise, but a surprise nonetheless, that the Museum held a complementary, smaller exhibition, entitled: “With the Line of Daumier”, showing litographs and drawings by Daumier himself (the one I'm including here was on the show, a caricature of France and Britain goading the Portuguese rival king brothers against each other like dogs, a comment on our own Civil War), and a handful of other French, British and American artists. Daumier, it seems, was a major direct influence on Oliphant, and that is very clear less in the figurative strategies than in the composition of the cartoon, especially the ones which shows throngs of people. His use of allegorical figures, from talking animals to branded objects to monsters (the headless hulk standing for the Bush electorates, which were many) makes me think also of Thomas Nast. I am thinking of lions and tigers, mostly, in Roman-like arenas, to represent a particular strong and complicated bout of political and economical power, but also on the recreation of politicians as other known characters such as Emperors, theatrical personages, a common staple in this sort of work. In any case, both shows highlight the way how Oliphant is in the continuation of the modern cartoon, steeped into real world politics.
I am not very certain here, but one of the things I liked the most in this show was the fact that Oliphant seems not to have no qualms in attacking both Republicans and Democrats (and everyone else, for that matter), whether they're little or small (Presidents are constant victims). Despite these jokes on the Presidents, the story of Ford allowing him to draw on his head the customary band aid is really cool, as well as the last Reagan cartoon (“The last goodbye”, 2004)... they make me wonder if, in the end, Oliphant doesn't keep a little ounce of respect for these guys. Someone was at the artist's talk at the Museum, and they told me tht he drew, while talking to the audience, a preposterous cartoon of a naked Palin and a moose (don't ask me for details, I really wanted to see this, but it was just impossible!). So his acrid, corriding verve is still on. Obama does not escape him either, and I'm glad there's people like this cartoonist who does not go all goo-gaga, and still thinks that if it's a politician, then there's always fodder for satirical attack.... More power to him! (we couldn't take pictures, so these images were ripped off of the internet)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Links again plus a couple

I'll be posting more of what André and I drew together, what I drew in the museums and all about the incredible time we had during the opening and the few days my Portuguese pals were here. For now I'll just say they were the best houseguests we've ever had and I'm sad they aren't still here. Violet also misses "Silly-Man" and "Drawing-Man".

There are lots of things afoot about the show so I'll keep updating as they happen. Even though Pedro beat me to a few of these links I thought I'd post them again:

Laura Parsons of the local weekly The Hook gave us a great boost for the opening (Good to finally meet!)

ArtPark wrote a really great review (Thanks guys!)

Mike Rhode of ComicsDC wrote a little piece too (Nice to meet you and Sara!)

We also got shout outs from Metabunker, Poopsheet and Bill Randall.

Truly grateful.

André and I had to spend a night in Washington before we flew back to Portugal. We were hosted by the lovely and charming Truly Herbert. I do not want to go into details about personal life, but I just wanted to leave a trace that we were so very lucky of meeting wonderful, welcoming people while our short stay in the States. And creative, intelligent people at that! First Warren and his family, and then Truly, and her roommate Erin. The funny thing is that Truly's home is just like a small, personal museum. She did everything, from painting to drawing, from collage to print works, from small sculptures (Bourgeois is hovering there) to plush toys-like objects d'art... We were allowed to take a few pictures, and she has no problem in us having them published here. Moreover, some of the paintings (the photos of the details are ruined, so they're not posted) include comics characters such as the Green Arrow (nerd alert?). So it all comes full circle at all times, it seems. Is there any escape... from noise?, as Negativland asked.
As I said, we were so very lucky to be surrounded with incredible talented and welcoming people. Truly was not an exception only, but the proverbial cherry on top of the cake. This trip really created an hunger to return and to become a better professional and a more creative person. I hope I can return what I learned in these few but full days in some manner.
I truly believe not many of us can become, even less so be, artists.
I truly believe everyday life mows down the necessary spirit of selfishness
I truly believe that we should understand what talent really means and make sure we water it, make sure there's enough sun, and good, fertile soil and wiggly worms too, because, well, their part of the whole thing underneath the surface. And wiggly worms are fun too.
I truly believe Truly is such a flower.

Here's a link to some more of her work. Check it out!

Three comics-related shows in DC. 3. Philip Guston.

The third show was held at the Tower Gallery of the National Gallery, presenting a few paper works and paintings by the one and only great Philip Guston. I'm presenting here a few pictures of this show. Guston is an extremely important reference for people interested in the study and appreciation of a wider field of comics (feel free to use another word if you feel more comfortable). The show has direct and simple notes showing us how De Chirico and Crumb were sources for Guston (permanent) reinvention. Everyone's knows from where the big feet come! (if you don't, just keep on tryin'!) And the big four fingered red glove will surely put us in the ballpark.

But more important (can I really say this?) than his painting and paper work, from which this small show is a great if small choice, is the 1971 Poor Richard, a sequence of caricatures of President Nixon represented as a big balls-cheeked, dick-nosed person, and his mates, such as Kissinger, represented as a free-floating pair of thick glasses. However, this would only be published in book form in 2001 (through the Univeersity of Chicago Press, with a study by Debra Bricker Balken). The important aspect of this work is that it is not a series of caricatures, but a real sequence, i.e., it is organised by a principle that forces us to read it through its appointed order. There are internal sequences that make this point even stronger - the visit to China being the most visible and central, I guess.
The figuration is also very telling, at one time formally simplistic, just like well-recognised characters of classical strips (Popeye and Krazy Kat come to mind), and semiotically charged. The themes are harrowing and personal, but to a certain extent they can be reinterpreted a little bit more freely, as figures with their own little narrative, independent of highly detailed context. I wonder if one could say the same of his paintings? If one can see the Mickeyesque red glove as more menancing than the Disney character can ever dream of being (or perhaps we could even see it as a critique of that entertainment Empire, so into suing as much as it can?), can we also see the Klan's hooded figures as cutsy? Hopefully not.

Sorry to tell you on this, Warren, but... Warren doodled throughout this show too, short riffs on Guston's work. I would like to see it here!

Three comics-related shows in DC. 2. Comic Art Indigène.

The second show was actually and narrowly related to comics. It is held at the National Museum of the American Indian, also a part of the Smithonian Institute, although it was organised first at the New Mexico Museum of Indian Art & Culture.
For a brief, official presentation, you can check here.
I have to start by saying that I totally disagree with the first sentence of the curatorial statement. Comics are not "poorly understood, underanalyzed, and under-utilized". There has been, in the United States alone, dozens of academic books on comics being published every year. There are conferences, meetings, forums and venues for discussion, and newer, perhaps better ways to produce, present and divulgate comics.
They're also not disposable... tell that to the collectors, buyers of graphic novels, and contemporary anthologies!
Anyhoo, the exhibition was a mish-mash of Native Americans' arts and crafts, such as cave painting, ceramic bowls and embroideries, compared to contemporary North American mainstream comics... At the entrance we see a painting of a warrior (?) with a shield whose colour scheme reminds one of Captain America's; and to drive that point home, there's a pic of Steve Rogers in his superheroic garments for comparison... Other works include contemporary crafts that use comics as a model for figuration, comics that have Indians as characters (from "bad, savage redskins" promptly confronted by the good ol' cavalry, to "Indian mutants"), or downright comics made by ethnic Indian peoples (can I say this? I am sorry if I'm being politically incorrect, I am not familiar with the terms as informed American citizens). One example is this image, that was used for the flyer... We'll all recognize (and a copy is included) John Buscema's scheme of the cover for The Avengers # 57. Sure, this version presents a very interesting riff using the Pueblo's own hero Po'pay fighting the Spanish, but apart from being a pretty nice appropriation, bringing about many interesting readings of a political nature - and even, perhaps, of rewriting and empowering History - does this make good comic art?
One of the most, no, the best piece of the exhibition, for me, was Cochiti Pueblo artist Martha Arquero's clay figurine of a Pueblo version of Spiderman. It is not only well-made, strong rewriting, a nice crossing of Peter Parker's known heroic alter ego and certain Pueblo tales (the old Spider Woman) but also damn cute. I actually think that this is the best meeting of two seemingly different and perhaps even strangely at odds modes of expression... One being a very traditional creation, steeped in uniqueness, and the other not-less unique but quite diluted as a commodity. To a certain extent, it reminded me of the comicbook - even more childish than usual - Spider-Man Fairy Tales. Many questions arise with this show, surely.
The point that "comics", as modernly understood, existed since time began (or at least, in the American continent, since rock drawings), goes back to a vexing question of the definition and historicity of comics. This has been discussed over and over again, and the fact that this exhibition takes no account of these things does not make it a good service.
I know that the very fact I am asking this question begs other questions and, at the end of the day, it is not a very intelligent way to discuss such exhibition... But frankly, I wanted to see strong, new work, and I fail to see and understand its power. Perhaps I needed to read more about it, to become more informed of the context and the quality of resistance that these works surely present.
Sure, it tackles the stereotyping that exuded from many American comics throughout its existence as a popular genre, and it is a nice showcase of a handful of Native American artists using comics as their weapon of choice (for it is, indeed, a weapon). Identity is a major issue, and taking in account that most superhero (a genre that seems very present in this show) is all about alter egos, secret identities and masks, it's very telling thaat most Native American characters, even when superheroic, show their own faces.
According to Mike Rhode's blog post, the curator, Antonio Chavarria, "was a comics fan before becoming a Curator of Ethnology". However, although it's a nice way to bring these two worlds together, they do not seem to coalesce into a single, unified field.
Oh, well, still have this really cute clay Spidey...

Three comics-related shows in DC. 1. Louise Bourgeois.

Warren drove André and me up to Washington D.C. the day before we left the States, and what do you know, we managed to check on three shows that can somehow be related to the expanded field of comics (I'm ripping off this expression from my good friend and mentor Domingos Isabelinho).
The first was a Louise Bourgeois show at the Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden of the Smithonian Institute. At the entrance one finds one of her magnificent spider moms at the entrance. Although it's one of the smallest, it is no less imposing...
Here a very drastic (and probably dumb) reduction of the History of Art of the 20th century. Just a thought, really. Dichotomies and clear-cut categories are usually ridiculous (we try to escape them all the time, especially with this show), but sometimes they do let us think about things in a pretty organised manner, upon which we can construe or from which we can step away. Whether we like them on a personal basis or not, it's probably pretty difficult to come up with other two names than Picasso's and Duchamp's as the greatest artists of the 20th century. “Artists” in its most comprehensive, powerful, full-fledged sense.
Louise Bourgeois is perhaps the third. Not actually in an hierachical way, mind you. Here's the thought then. If Picasso was an artist in its Adamic power, in which everything he touched became art, Duchamp was rather Luciferian, in the sense that he also mimicked the Adamic gesture of naming things by their true or new (or true and new) names, i.e., “art”, but in order to corrode and subvert the entire building of art.
Louise Bourgeois, however, brings a perfect balance of both impulses. The title of the collection of her essays, writing, and interviews says it all: “Destruction of the Father, Reconstruction of the Father”. Picasso and Duchamp. Adam and Lucifer. Creation and Destruction and Reconstruction. Solve et coagula. Make it up, fuck it up, bring it up again (and fuck up some more).
Where our interests, tastes and inclinations are concerned, the most important work is undoubtedly He Disappeared into Complete Silence , a sequence of nine engravings with text with which she did a book. To a certain extent, we can related it to other print work by the artist, such as the puritan, given the fact it presents us with a story told by images and a text. It was begun in 1947 and it has met many versions and states over the decades. I actually cannot tell you which version/state is the one at this show. It was also forbidden to take pictures of them, but I took a few before being warned, so let's see if they hold up here for a while...
I'm calling it sequence because it is supposed to be read by its rightful order. It tells us a story. It is a "drama of the self", according to Bourgeois' own words. Based somewhat on the life of a real person (you can find more details in the wonderful book Destruction of the Father. Reconstruction of the Father. writings and Interviews: 1923-1997, Violette editions) it presents us with a somewhat whimsical story of unrequited love, of loss, of the impossibility of communication, of people that miss the bus (of love, that is, and shit). The images show us towers, buildings, vertical structures. Seemingly, they have nothing to do with the text in any direct way, or perhaps they just "illustrate" an urban texture in which the story unfolds. Or perhaps they force us to look up where no horizon, no future, no hope is even possible.It was wonderful to look at the engravings (a first time for me, at least) just as we stepped from an experience of a show where artists try to expand the relationships of text and image, story and visibility, support and fruiton...
Here's a picture of Warren and André checking the small brochure of the show. Warren doodled something on it. Perhaps he'll show us what.

Yet another review.

Rob and Laura Jones, from the Migration Gallery (who're taking warren's stuff to a New York art fair soon), wrote a very sympathetic note at their blog. Check it out here. Thank you!

Laura Parson's review.

This is a small review about the Charlottesville scene... It opens with really nice words on our show, and you should check it out, here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


To the sound of Nicola Arigliano's 20 kilometri al giorno...