Art of comic books in 'Graphic Language' exhibit

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Comic book enthusiasts throughout northwest Ohio will have the opportunity to view the actual artwork and process of putting together a comic book or graphic novel in the exhibition “Graphic Language: The Art of the ‘Comic’ Book,” which will debut Oct. 24 at Bowling Green State University’s Fine Arts Center.

“Graphic Language” will include work by 14 nationally and internationally recognized artists who create stories for both adults and children. Many of the younger artists in the exhibition started out independently, publishing their pages on the Web. The more established artists helped pave the way from superhero and sci-fi tales to new fiction and fantasy genres that have won both literary and graphic awards.

The featured ARTalk speaker for the exhibition opening is the internationally admired comic book artist and theorist Scott McCloud. His talk, at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater (Room 206), is titled “Comics: A Medium in Transition.” It is free and open to the public. McCloud is known for his dynamic “visual lecture” presentations that include hundreds of comic and design images.

At 7:30 p.m., following the talk, the event will move to the Fine Arts Center for the exhibition opening, where McCloud will autograph his books, for sale in the Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery foyer.

Two additional free lectures will be presented on Saturday, Oct. 25. At 11 a.m., New York artist Jamal Igle will present “Black in a Four-Color World” in 204 Fine Arts Center, sponsored by BGSU’s Ethnic Cultural Arts Program. At 5 p.m., Dr. Amy Nyberg of Seton Hall University will present “The Death of the Comics Code” in 308 Union. These talks are also part of an academic conference, “The Comic Book in Popular Culture,” sponsored by the BGSU popular culture department. Visit www.bgsu.edu/departments/popc/page13191.html for the conference schedule and registration.

Galleries Director Jacqueline Nathan said, “BGSU Galleries is very pleased to present this exhibition devoted to one of the ‘hottest’ and most engaging contemporary art mediums currently stimulating widespread interest and dialogue. It is a bridge between popular and fine art and visual and literary art that has undergone dynamic and influential change over the past few years.”  

Artists in the exhibition include McCloud, Igle, Jessica Abel, Svetlana Chmakova, Denys Cowan, Howard Cruse, Will Eisner, John Jennings, Hope Larson, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Kean Soo, Frank Stack, James Sturm and Gene Yang.

In his introduction to the exhibition catalog, Dr. Dan Shoemaker, an instructor of popular culture at BGSU, says, “One of few art forms pioneered in the United States, the comic book first gained widespread popularity with the publication of Action Comics #1 in 1938. The debut of Superman in that issue forever changed American iconography and popular culture, and arguably changed the way Americans think of themselves and their relationship to the rest of the world. Superman opened the floodgates of the imagination, and led a vanguard of costumed characters in a propaganda victory against the Axis powers in World War II; Captain America slugged Adolf Hitler on the cover of his comic book months before Pearl Harbor.”

According to Nathan, “Most of the artists in this show continue that active legacy, using the graphic novel format to tell stories that include real issues, such as race, gender and prejudice, as well as dynamic sequential art and design conventions. Those written for children do this in a gentle manner, while the adult novels can be much more confrontational.”

Gallery hours for the exhibition are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 19. Special times for groups or classes are available by appointment. The galleries will be closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day. For more information, check www.gallery.bgsu.edu or email galleries@bgsu.edu.

The exhibition and lectures are sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council, BGSU Libraries, the Bowling Green Community Foundation, and the BGSU School of Art, Fine Arts Center Galleries and Department of Popular Culture.

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(Posted October 20, 2008 )