Panel from Julia Gfrörer’s That Blue, 2023. Courtesy the artist

“I don’t normally use color in my comics,” says illustrator Julia Gfrörer. “Comics are a storytelling medium, and as often as not, color in illustration is more decorative than narrative…or maybe I’m just cheap.” But for this month’s Drawn to MoMA, Gfrörer makes an unexpected turn by crafting a story that is all about color because, as she explains, “That blue is the story.”

In preparation, the illustrator paid a visit to MoMA, where she encountered Yves Klein’s Blue Monochrome, which is made with a shade of ultramarine blue that Klein claimed to have invented and later trademarked. “It’s so pure it almost makes your brain reset,” she remarks. Gfrörer, who often makes work about emotions we tend to ignore, dove head-first into making a story about the flawed pursuit of perfection. “The blue in my story seems to confer a condition of wholeness,” she says. “When something is broken we might long to have it back the way it was initially, but the initial version isn’t always the perfected one. And even if perfection is both desirable and achievable, it can’t last. Aren’t we improved by use, by damage? Once hurt, can we ever make things the way they were? I find that pretty unsettling”

Julia Gfrörer was born in 1982 in Concord, New Hampshire, and now lives on Long Island. Her comics have appeared in Kramers Ergot, Cicada, Arthur*, Study Group, Black Eye, Thickness, and Best American Comics. Her graphic novels Laid Waste and Black Is the Color are available from Fantagraphics Books. Her last name rhymes with despair and her heart is black as jet.

Yves Klein’s Monochrome Blue (1961) is currently on view in Gallery 406A: In and Out of Paris.

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