Sha Nazir,Two Hipsters In the Car, 2015 c The Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2015.
What is most startling about this brilliant exhibition, Comic Invention, is the cultural context into which comics are, if you will, framed.Spanning genres and centuries, the comics here are a global phenomenon. Now no longer just for kids or merely humorous, frivolous or throwaway, the broader way comics tap into the zeitgeist is explored. Frank Quitely’s retina-tickling, colour-saturated adult work is included, with some large panels showing his characteristic wit, with collaborative themes from sex to religion to politics, and a forensic attention to detail.
So there are political satires by Picasso, Warhol and Hogarth included. Some sketches Picasso made while creating his masterpiece Guernica lampoon the far-right leader general Franco. Archie Gilkison’s war comics from 1917 display the full horror of conflict, and the impact on young lives.
Max Ernst brings surrealism to the fore in his Parisian panels for A Week of Goodness, and of course Roy Lichtenstein’s In The Car, surely one of the most famous cartoon-inspired works, is centre of the room-itself a homage to the popular Girls’ Romances of 1961, from where the image was taken and refined. Lithographs and printing press had a huge impact, post-Industrial Revolution, which of course meant that work could become mass-produced.
Even artists whose work is not predominantly within comics, such as painters Hockney, Rembrandt and Rauschenberg get a nod, which proves the influence of comics on their oeuvre. The impetus is not just on modern graphic novels and artwork: the very first comics are here,including Varia Medica dated back from around 8th/9th C and thought to be Scotland’s oldest complete Western manuscript.
Hogarth’s 1732 engraving of infamous morality tale The Harlot’s Progress shows the underbelly of English society, while the first edition of Punch from 1841 is displayed, with a disclaimer that The Glasgow Punch of 1832 nonetheless pre-dated it!
Comic book art and graphic novel art is now regarded as a chronicle of our modern times and is considered of artistic value. It has an immediacy and vitality, and Comic Invention shows the ubiquity of the form, how it has evolved and its societal value today.
Ideal for anyone interested in art and pop culture-and who isn’t?
Comic Invention is at the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, from 18th March-17th July. Prices £5/£3