"Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel" Explores Work of 40 Northwest Comic Artists

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"Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel" Explores Work of 40 Northwest Comic Artists
Craig Thompson (Portland, OR), Blankets, 2003. Ink on Bristol board. Courtesy of Craig Thompson.

BOISE, ID.- For decades comics have largely been viewed as light-hearted and amusing stories told through simple line art. But in recent years, comics have moved from the cultural fringes into the artistic and literary mainstream. The Los Angeles Times recently added a Graphic Novel category to its slate of annual Book Prizes, citing the medium as “an expanding part of the book landscape, both aesthetically and commercially.”

Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel, on view at Boise Art Museum August 20-November 27, 2011, showcases the work of 40 Pacific Northwest artists who are established stars and emerging lights in the comic art universe.

A special feature of the exhibition will be a site-specific large-scale drawing installation by Daniel Duford, an artist and writer whose wall drawings, comics and sculpture are meditations on mythic heroes of American culture.

This exhibition is organized by the Maryhill Museum of Art.

The Exhibition
Despite being called comics, contemporary comic art is often far from humorous. Instead, it regularly addresses a wide array of serious literary, social, cultural, and political issues. Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel examines this diversity as it appears in the work of Northwest comic artists.

“The general public hasn’t yet overcome past stereotypes and considered the fine art aspects of comic art. Many comic artists possess a sophisticated design sense and they routinely render the human form in masterful ways,” says Dr. Steven L. Grafe, curator of art at Maryhill and organizer of the exhibition.

“Comic art has moved from comic book stores to fine art exhibitions in galleries and art museums. At the same time, the Northwest has become a haven for comic artists, in part because important publishers are located in Portland and Seattle, and partly because regional comic artists have built a supportive community that continues to attract new artists,” says Grafe.

Comics at the Crossroads will feature previously published and unpublished works, such as sample page spreads and book covers by 40 Oregon and Washington-based artists, including Mike Allred (Portland), Randy Emberlin (Portland), Ellen Forney (Seattle), Joëlle Jones (Portland), Steve Lieber (Portland), Gary Martin (Portland), Michael Avon Oeming (Seattle), Craig Thompson (Portland), Jim Valentino (Portland), and Jim Woodring (Seattle). The exhibition will also feature related models and toys.

One third of the artists featured in the exhibition are affiliated with Portland’s Periscope Studio, a collective of comic artists and writers that is the largest of its kind in the United States. The Portland area is an acknowledged hub of the national comics industry. Between them, Portland and Seattle are home to more than half a dozen major comic publishing houses and many smaller independent ones.

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