Jim Woodring's work is also weird or beautiful or both. He confronts sex, addiction, and hallucinatory "reality" in dreamscapes based on his own childhood idios kosmos. Some of his amazing drawings, Escher-like in detail, drawn us right into the hallucination. You're looking at Michelangelo's David and his perfect, beautiful foot, but then you're not, because you're seeing the scene from Disney's Jungle Book in which the elephants march with tails and trunks interlocked, but this sweaty monster is some kind of pig and he's cutting off his own tail — with a spoon! Other work here features Woodring's protagonist, Frank, a mutation of a 30s animated character, who navigates, wordlessly, alien worlds and realities. Sort of a Felix the Cat on LSD.

Joe Sacco is a journalist working in war-torn places like Sarajevo and the Gaza Strip. Rather than the straight-up war reportage we're used to, Sacco offers himself up, drawing his image into the corners and margins of his black and white comics and narrating his experiences. We see what he sees, looking out, but there's a postmodern Waltz with Bashir perspective to Sacco's work, not because it's surreal — it's not, except in that war itself is surreal — but because we're also aware of being seen. The cameras, so to speak, are turned.

R. Sikoryak is doing something else entirely. Well, maybe not entirely. He confronts alienation using the canonical texts you studied in high school and college. Imagine Dostoyevsky's introvert Raskolnikov as an ax-wielding Batman. Or Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray as Disney's Nemo. Also exhibited here are parts of Sikoryak's own collection of texts and one panel's journey from note to plotting on graph paper to transparency overlay to final product.

The Crypt of Bronte by R. Sikoryak
Courtesy of R. Sikoryak
The Crypt of Bronte by R. Sikoryak
Calamity of Challenge by Matthew Allison
Courtesy of Matthew Allison
Calamity of Challenge by Matthew Allison

Location Info

Map

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

7374 E. Second St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Museums

Region: Central Scottsdale

Details

"IDIOS KOSMOS: KOINOS KOSMOS"
featuring the tandem exhibits "Masters of Collective Reality" and "Us Versus Them," will be on display at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. 2nd St., through October 2. Visit www.smoca.org for more details.

Jennifer Diane Reitz uses a computer — just a mouse and some outdated graphics software — to draw anime-inspired images she calls "mangastrips," a hybrid of Japanese manga and the American comic strip. For three years, she drew and posted to her website a new strip every day in her ongoing narrative Unicorn Jelly. If you have the patience and the eyesight, read Reitz's narrative for such priceless bits as "'Slimes' and their uppity cousins the 'Jellies' are the lowest rank of monsters, disposable, sad, forgettable." All 666 strips are here in a dizzying installation representative of self-discovery, especially sexual identity.

Look at Matthew Allison's work last. He's the youngster of the group, born 30 years after the Golden Age of comics, but he recycles themes and imagery from that era. Then he deconstructs story and all the stereotypical narrative "weaknesses" of the genre, messing with our linear expectations of exposition and dialog. His drawings, such as the cover from his series Calamity of Challenge, do that, too. He gives us an icky, melting monster skull, à la Iron Maiden's Eddie, but Allison's terrifying creature is bubble-gum pink.

Jon Haddock's own work — "Us Versus Them" — is in the next gallery, and the transition is from bright light and busy color to dark and stark. The text panels in both exhibits are integral to navigating them in tandem. Of course, nothing's stopping you from looking at Haddock's solo work without considering the context he's provided, but to use an old teacher's aphorism, you'll only be cheating yourself.

Haddock acknowledges the stigma comic fans risk and/or live with. He acknowledges the escape provided by the metaphors that the artists in the next room create. Clearly, Haddock venerates those artists. But he also acknowledges the possible dangers inherent in "dwelling too much in an isolated personal world." How weird is too weird (us=idios)? When do we stop making sense to others (them=koinos)?

There are two nearly identical rooms in the installation. Painted dark gray, they are framed by the wall at which we stand looking in through a heavy screen that distorts the image, our perceptions, or both. Looking closer doesn't clarify much; it only gives you a headache. In Workspace, a custom-crafted bear suit hangs like a raincoat on a hook on the wall. Whatever corpus inhabited this suit has also shed its papier-mâché cartoonish mouse head and left a comically oversized gun on the table. There's a film noir-esque foreboding here, and in the other room, My Life in Comics, there's compelling isolation. A ratty recliner faces a wall with nine acrylics on boards arranged in a tic-tac-toe pattern. You think some of what you see is recognizable — in one painting, that's definitely Shaggy and Velma standing over Scooby-Doo's corpse. You want to step through the screen and confirm — but, of course, you'd better not.

Haddock's Tool Rack is an assemblage of eight 3D papier-mâché and casein weapons of specific destruction, such as the FH Planet Blaster 02. They're cartoonish in proportion, ergonomically designed for the likes of Mickey Mouse's gloved three-fingered hand. That is, if he should ever hang his mouse suit on the wall and get up to whatever nefarious business he pursues after Main Street closes.

They're not intended, however, for use by the eight papier-mâché and casein human sculptures that constitute Haddock's Legion. These are sculptures of real people — Philip K. Dick is here again, along with H.P. Lovecraft and Octavia Butler, though not all the figures are sci-fi writers — with details such as tattoos, rings, belts, ties, eyeglasses, handguns. A legion of what isn't exactly clear, although idios might be a good guess. In any case, they're confronting us as a legion would while, overhead, Haddock's Serial, a five-minute digital video production, loops. The video is of a human eye in extreme close-up, onto which is reflected the reading of a comic book. The eye blinks occasionally. The pages rustle loudly when turned and provide the only sound, save for the faint, and faintly annoying, music from the Woodring animation in the next gallery.

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2 comments
Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

Good review. Would love to see more like this!

A note on Sigils: in another interpretation they are basically symbols composing a magical formulae to form the "true name" of who/what you wish to summon (as per Lesser Key of Solomon/Dictionnaire Infernal))!

 
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