BLÆK Sold Out!

blaek_cvr_t.jpgWe have just received notice that the big anthology of Danish comics and related visual art, BLÆK, edited by myself and T. Thorhauge, designed by Frederik Storm and with cover art by Jan Solheim, has sold out from the publisher. From its frenetic creation, including the criticisms of economical mismanagement and political censorship, as well as the concomitant tie-in with the infamous Muhammed cartoon crisis, it was clear that it was going to make waves, and its present, critically-acclaimed and award-winning presence in Danish comics culture speaks for itself. It is, needless to say, a book we are proud of, and continue to stand by 100%.

We hope everyone who read it will continue to check for the artists who contributed — it is, of course, more than anything their book. Thanks to everyone who read and had an opinion on BLÆK!

The Venice Biennial pt. 2 of 2: The International Exhibition and the Arsenale

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This is the second and last installment of the Metabunker review of this year’s Venice Biennial. Read the first part, which deals with the national pavilions, here. Also, be sure to check out our extensive photo reportage from the show.

While the national pavilions provide the core of the Biennial, affirming the continued belief in its slightly outmoded but still somehow current modernist conception, the real gauge of a successfully curated show are the large, thematically oriented exhibitions in the corderie (ie. rope-making buildings) at the Arsenal and the already mentioned International exhibition in the Italian pavilion (Italy has not had a solo show for decades, but actually did this year, in a different Italian pavilion situated at the far end of the Arsenal).

Incarnations

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The great Titian show in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which will move on to the Accademia in Venice next year, is close to being the best of both worlds. It is based on substantial new research, particularly of technical nature, and it unites a large number of the great masterpieces of the last 25 or so years of Titian’s career for the joy and edification of the visitor. It furthermore presents the entirety of the museum’s own substantial collection of earlier works by the master and his assistants, along with select borrowings that shed light on the development of Titian and his workshop’s art and craft.

Unlike the concurrent exhibition on late Titian in Belluno — which it must have been a rather thankless task to assemble in competition with Vienna — the focus is here very much on Titian’s creative genius, rather than his role as capobottega of an enterprising but entirely subservient workshop. While it does illuminate aspects of his workshop practice, it first and foremost invites the visitor to contemplate Titian’s great synthetic genius as a painter — his grand attempt at a negation through art of the dichotomy of sacred and profane.

Re: Christophe Blain, et. al. II, now with update!

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Pepo has responded to my comments on his description of the visual qualities of Christophe Blain’s comics a couple of days ago. He emphasizes that, in comparing Blain with McCay and Herriman, he is not making a straight comparison of quality, but one of kinship. I got that the first time. He goes on to describe a very different comic, Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s Dark Knight Strikes Back as another comic that succeeds as a work of art because it offers up a visual vision of strong, compelling originality, implying that that’s what Blain does too.

And that’s where I disagree. Yes, Blain’s work is visually pleasing to look at, it’s impressive. But it is far from as original and as compelling as McCay’s, Herriman’s, or even Miller and Varley’s. As I mentioned earlier, it looks like the work of at least a dozen other cartoonists on the French market (only better than most of them).

The Venice Biennial pt. 1 of 2: The Pavilions

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Managed to catch the Venice Biennal on its last legs, when I was in the Serenissima last week. It proved to be an exhilarating surprise. Usually, it is a slog mitigated by perhaps a handful of interesting work and, if you are lucky, a standout or two. Circumnavigating the national pavilions especially tends to be tedious, with individual curators either playing it safe by banking on established names or simply shooting in the dark and serving up uninspiring up-and-comings. Figuring out who is the next hot thing has always been something of a crapshoot, and spotting real quality even harder, so the odds are obviously stacked against the good or interesting outweighing the less so.

Reluctant to draw too rash, generalist conclusions as to the general state of the visual arts now as opposed to then, I can therefore only attribute the relative high quality of the national exhibitions this year to fortuity. It is not like anything was fundamentally different from previous years, just that there were more quality showings in the pavilions. To me there were a couple of real standouts this year, as well as several more notable national exhibitions. I will try to touch upon the ones that made the biggest impressions here, while in the name of relative brevity entirely leaving out all the chaff.

Hype: Cool-Looking Exhibitions in Århus and Malmö

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An interesting-looking exhibition with several young great artists – wish I could go, but I probably won’t be around those parts for quite a while. Also, check out Artboks’ website and MySpace).

And, in Malmö, the C’est Bon Kultur crew, will be opening a show of the great Martin tom Dieck’s work on Saturday. Same lament from me. Do go, he’s a contemporary comics master.

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Comix at Brandts – The Flix!

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Finally, the Bunker crew have pooled their individually snapped flix from the opening, the weekend before last, of the exhibition Comix, at Brandts klædefabrik in Odense, Denmark. Hop over to our photo gallery for a (nigh-)virtual tour (as they say) of the exhibition, as well as images of some of the best cartoonists of the moment dipping into Hans-Christian Andersen’s pond. And go see the exhibition already!

Re: Christophe Blain, et. al.

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All right, so I’m in Italy and haven’t posted anything for a while. Lots of stuff coming up. In the meantime, Pepo Mhas posted a link to an interview with Christophe Blain over on his excellent blog Con C de Arte (bookmark now!), where he takes the opportunity to comment again on my stated opinion on Blain’s work and that of other French cartoonists of his ilk, something we and a bunch of others had a good debate a little over six months ago.

I don’t have anything to add to what I wrote back then, but just want to correct what seems to me a misconception in Pepo’s assessment of the points I made: I am not looking for ‘literary comics’ from Blain and the other cartoonists I’ve been criticising, nor am I blind to their dazzling graphic skills. However, they still lack substance. Their art is beautiful but boring, and ultimately their work is conservative and bourgeois, which is a shame because they are so talented.