A host of unlikely guests have materialized among the crammed white bookshelves lining Manhattan’s notorious cavern of artistic ephemera, Printed Matter. Spiked dragons are nesting between the bookstands; figures made from shadow frolic toward the cashier; gray stones transform into hatching eggs right before the customer’s eyes. It’s safe to say that something unusual is happening.
Fear not though, these metamorphoses aren’t an Ovidian rift or a mysterious wrinkle in time, but designs in an exhibition of comic arts called Something Unusual is Happening, curated by Printed Matter staffers Cory Siegler and Leslie Lasiter, and on display until July 31st.
The show brings together an international group of comic artists and illustrators who update ideas of fantasy and allegory whether through the use of traditional mythological characters (ghosts, witches, grinning goblins) or a fascination with world building and themes of transformation. What formally binds the work is a common interest in unconventional, often non-linear storytelling, and an urge to transform the traditional comic format.
The illustrations explore a range of fixations; allegories of personal development, cautionary tales of advanced technology, and self-referential meditations on the act of comic drawing itself.
For a show about transforming—both figuratively and conceptually—Printed Matter has decided to also include related rough sketches, notes, ink-drawings, and mock-ups; the physical traces of a work undergoing transformation and development. These sit aside finished comics, zines, posters, and prints by artists including Sammy Stein, Brie Moreno, Patrick Kyle, and Lala Albert.
The exhibition also crucially displays a copy of experimental comics anthology GOUFFRE, published by Lagon Revue this year, and a collection that charts the use of abstraction, anti-narrative, and graphic dynamism in contemporary comic arts. Printed Matters’ exhibition can be seen as rooted in and branching off from Lagon’s tome.
Today, the curators of the show Siegler and Lasiter take us through a few of the beguiling works on display.