In recent years a number of artists have transmuted the lexicon of comic strips and films, cartoons, and animation into a new, representational mode of “comic abstraction” to address perplexing issues about war and global conflicts, the legacy of September 11, and ethnic and cultural stereotyping. From Julie Mehretu’s intricately layered paintings—in which she uses cartoon explosions to portray the changing histories of civilizations as a result of warfare—to Arturo Herrera’s psychological collages, made by slicing and reconfiguring the pages of Walt Disney coloring books, and from Ellen Gallagher’s seductively Minimalist paintings permeated by “blackface” signs culled from minstrel performances to Rivane Neuenschwander’s wiped-out cartoon characters in the series Zé Carioca, the world of comic abstraction reflects the intensely personal relationship that many contemporary artists maintain with the political makeup of the world. The image of popular culture is so imprinted in our consciousness that the partial or total erasure of its iconography always remains recognizable. Bridging the rift between abstract form and social consciousness in ways that are critical and playful in tandem, this exhibition presents the first investigation into the experimental outgrowths of comic abstraction.
Organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.