This appeared a while back at the Chicago Reader
Comics are part of visual art — sort of. There aren’t too many comics pages in permanent museum collections…but on the other hand gallery shows featuring comics artists are more and more common. The MCA’s “New Chicago Comics” helps to explain why comics don’t and do fit on museum walls. On the “don’t” side is the work of Jeff Brown and Paul Hornschemeirer, both artists whose focus is insistently narrative. Brown especially, with his crude drawings and layouts and cutesy punch lines, doesn’t benefit from the venue’s close focus. Works by Anders Nilsen and Lilli Carré, on the other hand, seem liberated by being lifted out of their original context. A Nilsen page showing six panels of a small pigeon cursing in darkness before it suddenly sees a cave full of blind birds is not diminished by the fact that you don’t know where the story goes. On the contrary, it leaves you, like the pigeon, trapped in a mysterious subterranean landscape, where there is wonder and life but no escape. Similarly, Lille Carré’s stencil-like drawing Splits, showing a stylized woman in a teapot almost touching her own duplicate, folds comics’ panel-to-panel repetition back on itself. It’s as if a character turned around, saw herself across the gutter, and was instantly transmuted into art. The MCA show provides an interesting contrast between some comics which can’t, and are perhaps not even interested in, making that turn, and some which can and do.



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