College Art Association

From the Page to the Wall: From Graphic Novels to Gallery Comics

Friday, February 24, 2:30 PM–5:00 PM
Hynes Convention Center, Second Level, Room 210
Chair: Christian P.J.-C. Hill, California State University, Fullerton

Art Space for Comics: Managing and Curating the Cartoon Art Museum
Andrew Farago, Cartoon Art Museum

Eternal Ink: Comic Book and Comic Strip Original Art as Aesthetic Object
Andrei Molotiu, University of Louisville

Panels, Covers, and Viewers: My Mongrels of Painting, Installation, and Comics
Mark Staff Brandl, Universität Zürich

Art Histories of Gallery Comics: What Rake Told Maus
Joanna Roche, California State University, Fullerton

Paper  © 2006 Mark Staff Brandl All Rights Reserved

"Panels, Covers and Viewers:
My Mongrels of Painting, Installation and Comics"

Mark Staff Brandl, artist, corresponding editor for Art in America and Phd Candidate at the Universität Zürich, Switzerland.

Brandl's dissertation is on his own Lakoffian theory of central trope in the creative process of both visual artists and authors, which he calls "metaphor/m" (tm)



(most slide images follow, but not all)


Hi, I'm Mark Staff Brandl, an artist. For Christian Hill's session From the Page to the Wall: From Graphic Novels to Gallery Comics, I'm presenting my own art in this area, while addressing the various thought-provoking questions mentioned in the session description in a directly personal fashion.

Action Figure (1)



I hope I go slowly enough here. I've been giving a kind of performance-lecture recently, where I teach the entire art history survey in an hour and a half. Prehistoric through Postmodern. Seriously!, but of course it becomes rather funny and critical just through the speed. So I have begun to pick up too much speed in other lectures. I also generally speak off the cuff. In the interests of being somewhat more scholarly, I'll try to stick closer to my text today.

Intro panel shot from Kreuzlingen (2)



The relationship between the comic art world and that of the "fine" arts has been a strained one. Yet both are important forms of creativity and are of equal importance to many people, including some fine artists including me. Traditionally, "high" artists have been condescending to comic art, seeing it as at best a kind of accidental success, and at worst as corporate hack-work. Even the adjectives one must use to name the fields reflect this— high/low; fine/applied, etc.

Comic fans, similarly, view fine art as too elitist, assuming that the often difficult works of experimental artists are publicity ploys.

Impartially judged, both camps are wrong — and yet, unfortunately, sometimes right.


Accept my terminology here as simply indicative, not judgmental. Fine artists are those who create in the context of galleries and museums, selling to collectors. Comic means artists of the sequential who create in the context of publishing and sell to a "mass" audience.

(Or at least to a more "street-level" audience. So-called "niche" audiences are replacing the mass public, as we can all find our own corners of culture on internet and so on. Simultaneously, TV and now video games and the like are replacing comics as the most popular, mass-media entities, thus allowing comics a new life as a more individual art form.)


My work is something of a "mongrel" or "creole" combination of installation, painting and comics. While presenting slides of various installations and other gallery comics I have made, I will discuss the works in relationship to

• the definition of comics (sequentiality, codependence/independence of word and image, closure, iconosequentiality, etc.),

• the influence of or their derivation from traditional comics,

• and the viewers relationship to them from the perspective of both fine art and comic art.

Me with Kreuzlingen Panels wall (3)

First, I prefer the word creole to mongrel, although both are highly loaded terms.


While I actually don't mind the term "mongrel" in English, it has distinctly derogative overtones. For example, I used the equivalent term "Mischling" in several interviews about my art in German, whereupon the writers immediately leaped into the alternate form in that language, "Bastard." While not containing the same meaning as our English word bastard, I still don't appreciate that much.

At the same time, having lived in the Caribbean, I have personally experienced the richness of creole culture and the promise for the world of creolization as an idea.


The word creolization is not employed exclusively to describe Creole culture.  A broad anthropological term, it now describes any coming together of diverse cultural traits or elements to form new traits or elements.  In the context of linguistics, for example, creolization occurs when two or more languages converge to form a new, indigenous language.  When applied to Cajun culture, creolization can be said to describe Cajun music, because of its mixing of black and white sounds; Caribbean and Cajun food also a delicious examples of creolization.

Creolization — is thus a complex process of cultural borrowing and lending in a area with many different cultural influences and bears directly on comics and fine art. And far more tropaically useful than that old "melting pot" metaphor in relationship to the US.


One of the few positive political aspects of our American culture is that it is, slowly but surely, less and less solely European. That disturbs many people I know, as I live in Europe. Yes, we are the children of Europe— yet mixed with children of Africa, the Orient and more. That is our best trait. US culture is not "decadent," as certain Europeans have recently claimed, it is simply mixed and leaves the "Leitkultur Europa" nonsense in the dust — Creole. Let's hope this can properly evolve, without racist or fundamentalist interference. That possibility, together with very-alive Feminism remains one of my few hopes for my beloved homeland.


In particular, I am against purism in all forms. I find it morally and politically questionable. It is a trope of fascism and racism. Changes in culture, especially in and since Modernism have often come from "below." Most species of the arts, since Greenbergian Formalism, are too purist—there is too much inbreeding. I want a creole culture in art. Leslie Fiedler, who sadly recently passed away, insisted that "(...) a closing of the gap between elite and mass culture is precisely the function of the novel now (...)". I say that is true of visual art as well. Cross the Border - Close that Gap: Postmodernism as something more than quasi-Mannerist Late Modernism. For me, the key to this lies in the discoveries of comic artists.

Impuritan (4)



The terms in the title of my paper sum up my current forms of expression. Panels, Covers and Viewers. Panels are wall installation pieces wherein large oil and acrylic paintings on canvas are surrounded by additional painting directly on the wall. The wall and its elements are created as a huge, readable, sequential "page" of (an often quite abstract) comic. The term panels, of course, denotes the small framed areas in comics, as well as portable panel/easel paintings (often used in German to denigrate painting as an obsolete art form), or panel-segments of a fresco (one of the progenitors of comics--- which amuses me: I am the most cutting-edge when I go back to wall painting? Sistine Chapel or Lascaux? Tintoretto's San Rocco?). The image you saw earlier is from one such work in a Kunsthalle space in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.
Probably the key work, in that it got me the most fame, thus most additional possibilities.

Panels, Covers, Viewers Grey intro image (5)

Well — in addition to this Panels work, there are some Cover works which also helped me a lot recently, Shut Up and Paint. Too Old to Die Young.

Shut Up and Paint Cover (6)


Too Old to Die Young (7)



The Covers works can be quite large, but are generally very small (often exactly comic magazine size, such as that shown here). The works are paintings in gouache, ink, and acrylic paint on paper, drawings in ink on paper or paintings in acrylic on canvas. The Covers works are recognizably based on the structure of comic book covers, with title, bold lettering, price, date, numbering, image and so on. In them, I reveal and even revel in my inspirational sources, particularly those of my childhood which comprised my initial calling to be an artist.

Several Covers works

Bild Wort (8)

Vigorous Abandon (9)

Epifunnies (10)


They are presented in groups and usually as installations.

Covers Installations

Kreuzlingen (11),

Dornbirn (12)



The wellsprings of inspiration I mentioned include the billboard sign painting and display-window decoration of my father, Earl B. Brandl, as well as superhero comics and their artists, such as my personal mentor, 1940s-80s Daredevil and Dracula comic artist Gene Colan.

Dad's Brushes and Brush Shrine (13)

Colan's Pieta Daredevil with Trapster (14)


My swipe / copy as kid (15)

No, at that time I didn't realize it was a pieta. At least intellectually.


• Describe getting the piece done in order to have Micro finally done "really," by Colan instead of in his style as "swiped" by me as a child.

"My Colan/ Micro drawing" from Colan (16)

Colan is and always has been a very unique artist in his field and bears description in our context here.

He was always greatly appreciated in comics, but not an artist whose style was much copied, even during his various peaks of popularity. While he has had a large number of fans and "students" (without directly teaching classes), he seems to stimulate individuality rather than imitation. Colan's style is highly individualistic and was so at a time when "house styles" were the rule. Colan is self-driven, always experimenting, learning, improving. Even now, in his supposed "retirement," with greatly impaired vision, he draws better than ever.


As anyone who has taught beginning students knows, the super-hero and corporate comic world of today still hovers too much around a handful of formulaic styles seemingly drawn by almost indistinguishable artists (hyper-steroid Image-style, dark and gritty gore, or Osamu Tezuka/manga copyists), Colan — distinctiveness, independence— should be more of an influence.

Likewise, in a fine-artworld collapsing into academic mannerism owing to tiny, curatorial-fiefdoms, comic artists such as Colan should be a new source of the desire for self-reliance and power, despite the fact that this is actively suppressed.


Yes, too many fine artists are technically incompetent, faddish slaves of curatorial fashion trends and too many comic artists are imaginatively incompetent, faddish hacks acting as slaves to corporate "product" trends. Gene Colan is neither, by far. I contend that he even offers a valuable model for avoiding either of these forms of creative servitude.


This brings me to a proposal I have for all curators listening: A Gene Colan wall work. It was originally the idea of his wife, who has always encouraged her husband and who is a supporter of my work, and enjoys my homages to her husband. She said, why don't you mix your two approaches. This is a rough idea of what would be possible. I, with other helpers, would enlarge and draw by hand directly on one or more walls, a sequential drawing done especially for the situation by Colan.

You give us a wall in a museum or other location and you got it!

Colan proposal (17)

I am also very inspired by the premier letterer of comics, from the 40s, but I think best of all time. African American, Howard Ferguson. Called by Jack "King" Kirby the greatest letterer ever.


Nevertheless, I do not simply appropriate an image. Rather, I attempt to engage this form as an inherited yet incomplete grammar, coaxing it to proclaim celebrations and complaints, desires and critical thoughts. This is not fusion or cross-over, but a personal and disjunctive dialogue of arbitration. As frequently as possible, the works reflect and comment on the context in which they are presented. Snide comments --- but also political, etc.

Contextual contents:

Video Cover (18)

Lettering Cover(19)

Art World group (20)


Political / religious.- Here is one painting which is currently "cruising" about the web, making me a few friends and a few enemies.

The Lord Saith (21)



Some listeners here from the comic art world may still be thinking --- "Oh no, Brandl's one of those Pop-type artists who raids comics without respect for the genuine creators of the original material." No, that pisses me off too. I am horrified that David Salle finds it unnecessary to pay tribute to the comic details he "borrows" in paintings, while I was delighted that Dave Muller knew and proclaimed the artists cited in a work of his. (John Buscema with Joe Sinnott in both cases, by the way.) I am not interested in quotation, but in breaking down the barrier between these fields, thereby energizing, enlarging and honoring both.

Covers Bunch (22)

You can see my lettering influence best in the works in which I have begun to join groups of Covers works—I call them Covers Bunches. These have also begun to feature sequentiality between the internal Cover images, thus merging my Panels and Covers directions.

Covers Bunch
Detail (23)





Both Panels and Covers works exist primarily in galleries, museums, Kunsthalle spaces and on the walls of fine art collectors — however some of my works have been presented again after the shows in comic publications to a comic art public as comics (with no mention of their fine art origin, as in a recent issue of the French comic publication Bile noir).

Tür Dreh (Door-film shot / revolving door)

Study for Tür-Dreh Installation (24)

Tür-Dreh as Litho (25)

Tür-Dreh in Bile noir (26)

Now for the third and last of my introductory terms: Viewers. Generally, Viewers are just that: toy, hand-held slide-show viewers, with a sequence of 12 images. Either as installation documentation, or even better as clickable comics-in-a-toy. These "multiples" have often been distributed to those viewing the show, forming an integral and engaging part of an installation. However, in this session paper I use the term to refer to the perceivers of such gallery/museum/ fine-art-space comics. There have been many various, often contradictory, yet exciting responses to these works. My art mixes various "modes" of viewing, as well as several art (sub-)cultures; as I have been alluding to in this paper already.

Me looking through viewer (27)

Group of Viewers (28)

More Viewers (29)

German speakers sometime "accuse" me of being very American, due to my comics and sign painting influences. Interestingly, French and Italians and British don't. Is it the case that the Swiss in particular are afraid of having a national identity? — that they believe their own forms, such as geometric abstraction and Neo-Expressionism, which look highly "Swiss" to me, appear transparently "global" to them? When this is said, I answer --- wow, what a coincidence --- I AM an American! As well as now also having a Swiss passport. As an aside, no matter what Dubya and the "Freedom Fries" people say, France is a heaven for much appreciation of American culture. One can see educated people reading comics. On the bus.

My interests ARE personal. And "earned," as I generally repeat a lot. In my opinion, as an artist, one can do whatever arises out of the true experiences of your own background.

Erklär mir
Wall installation (30)

Now to the Background in a concrete sense. In one discussion in a gallery in Basel, near the French border, someone asked me if it bothered me that the large comic outline was so obvious. I said no, because I wanted it clear. It is perhaps a simple reference, perhaps almost a one-liner, but much of art is that --- what counts is what you do with it afterwards. I have gone on to other things. Such as this "Kiosk" or news stand installation wall. Strangely enough, in another place, a Kunsthalle on the Swiss/German border, near Lake Constance, another artist, a formalist, asked me, in a clearly dismissive voice, if it didn't bother me that no one sees that the background is a comic page. Maybe formalists can't recognize any references, who knows.

I'm happy with both responses anyway. I will continue to work on expanding how I present my panels, I will return to the fake "page" on occasion. I like it. And other backgrounds from my background.

Mogelsberg Kiosk (31)

I feel a bit guilty discussing only myself in his context, perhaps this is the scholar in me. There are many exciting creations by others, but I can't canvas the whole field here in 20-some minutes. It would certainly be worth it for another time or someone else to do, though. Others: such as Fort Thunder, Switzerland's Sequenz Verein Gruppe and others. Please let this cursory aside stand for a wealth of others --- esp. women --- working in this way. I encourage you to seek them out.




Back to myself. Simultaneous: Pintophobie and Pintophobie comic

Cover (32)

Pintophobie Comic (33)

Conceivably, I make the occasional "real" comics out of guilt. Because, far more often, I make the world's most expensive comics. I can't afford them — as is true with most other fine artists who are successful enough, but not world famous. We earn a living, but can't afford our own artworks. That's another session theme.


Certainly, there is a definite socio-political aspect to my approach. This is not always obvious to German speaking viewers, I must add, especially in hopelessly "Bieder" (middleclass) Switzerland. A giant suburb of Europe. I am from the working class. It's a Rock n Roll (now hip hop thing). Which the refugees/foreigners in Switzerland understand. Although I am highly, perhaps over-educated, according to a few gallerists, I am bringing the blue-collar technical achievements into the museum/Kunsthalle world. Problem: like superhero comics, I feel attracted to technical ability and violence. I have sublimated this into my creations. But I always feel good when I get Colan and my Father's hard-won techniques, merged with philosophy, smuggled into the "upper" realms — near a video-on-the-floor gesture or the like.

Blue-Collar scholar (34)

Class Game (35)

My favorite living philosopher, David Carrier sees comics as an inherently impure entity; I would amplify this, claiming that comics offer a positively anti-purist emancipation from narrow formalist reductivism. This is a trait to applaud and emulate in the fine arts in order to construct a new road out of the cul-de-sac of Late and Post-Modernism. Objections to comics are usually objections to the form’s impurity. "Breaking down seemingly essential boundaries is often thought to be unnatural, and so morally pernicious."

Comics are radically technically non-exclusive, even expansive.

The in-betweenness of comics has important social, psychological, even ethical implications — as well as historical-philosophical ones.

The Impuritan (36)

Here we come to viewers again. They must both read and view my work. Read in the extended, if not literal sense. Thus, formal, phenomenological and socio-political in-betweenness travel from comics into my painting installations. I have learned a lot.




I quote the title of Barbara Kruger’s witty New York Times article: "What’s High? What’s Low? Who Cares?" She means by that "Who –is—it—who—cares?" And generally those who say "Who cares" are those who in fact care most --- feeling their illusions of undeserved snobbery threatened. For me, we are all high and low; Comics are much higher than we know; and I care.




Are these comics?

Since the appearance of Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics, and David Carrier's The Aesthetics of Comics , a definition of comics is one primary debate within the comics sub-culture. What components of the form are necessary and sufficient to its identity? Carrier finds these in the word balloon, "linked narrative," book-sized scale and comics’ general inclusive "impurity." McCloud finds it in simple iconic style, closer and the reading/viewing unification.

Several of these I use and a few I do not — or have altered.

OZ Grünau (37)

The word balloon is the clearest example of the ultimate combination and unity of word and image in comics. It is both a visual motif and a verbal vehicle, yet remains purely neither. I don't use it — yet. However, I use the amalgamation of words and pictures, and most importantly, the cognitive processes of reading pictures while viewing words.

+Art3 "basement"(38)

+Art3 balloon (39)

+Art3 thought balloon (40)

In the Panels works I concentrate on what Carrier calls "linked narrative," meaning the sequentiality of images in comics, that wonderful invention of the Swiss teacher Rodolphe Töpffer, which to my mind is the most creative and auspicious aspect of the form and my chief interest. Although I am not exceedingly directly narrative in the work shown here, the spirit is not far from comics, as many comics have a certain circularity or static patterning in their storytelling, much like that of epics or fables.

Kreuzlingen Panels again (41)



Explain sequencing in the Kreuzlingen installation.

- from analyzing fight scenes by Jack Kirby

- I did an interactive leporello-litho-book based on the analysis of car chase scenes

- Ursula Badrutt-Schoch, a very astute art critic, felt that it was a love story. So now I claim that. The fact that she even made her own story up is pleasing to me, proving that closure works, even in abstraction.

- Go thru series of cuts, jumps, tracking shot, zoom etc.


This sequencing was, of course, invented by the creator of comics, Rodolphe Toepffer. Born in Switzerland in 1799, this teacher published his first works in 1833. What made his works different from previous narrative images was his invention of panels, closer, and the interdependence of the acts of reading and viewing. Furthermore, he knew what he had accomplished, wrote about it in theoretical articles and even sent copies to Goethe, who loved them.

Toepffer slide (42)



Mentioning Toepffer and comic books, brings up one important difficulty within my work and other gallery/museum comics. A case can be made for the importance of the comic in the form of a book or magazine. While there are currently many important experiments into other modes of delivery, such as on-line comics on internet or larger "coffee-table" tomes, this point is weighty and something "gallery comics" will have to deal with in a novel fashion.

In a wider view, the comic has always been successfully accessible. Its traditional forms — the magazine, the book collection, the newspaper strip — are all human-, even hand-scaled, unpretentious, and democratic. Importantly, comics have always been allographic, as opposed to autographic, to use philosopher Nelson Goodman’s terminology. That is, the actual work of art is located in the published object, not a one-of-a-kind "original" as in painting. Any new technological forms for comics must take these defining characteristics into consideration, reinventing them in an original fashion.

comic books in a pile (43)

I hope I am beginning to do this through my works accessibility --- event, multiple, installation. But I must work on this further.

Leporello book (44)



My history and comics history. How did I get to these "expanded," mongrel comics and why? And what are its strengths and weaknesses?


All our heroes and fake companies. As a child, comics were my inspiration.

All our heroes and companies (45)

As well as popular music; I was an 11 year-old Mersey-beat fanatic when the Beatles hit the US. I heard that and saw Superman, and loved my Dad's lettering, and knew I wanted to do "something like that."

3 Chords and 4 Colors Cover in English (47)

in German (46)

I was originally dissuaded from doing comics related work in art school.


No, it was not because I copied the superhero style, such as the Manga-addicts we get in school now. I was told: in images that was a one-off belonging to Lichtenstein. Furthermore, script belonged to Robert Indiana, and Willem DeKooning.


I was also afraid, I didn't want "text work" like Weiner or Kosuth. Too "I'm intellectual."

Weiner slide (48)

I did sneak it in. (Dad lettering.) I did a performance in a museum space with my Father, Earl Brandl. Explain a bit.

Slide of Dad lettering (49)

Dad-lettered "Will" painting (50)

Finally, an important point I would like to expand upon is the personal development of much current comic/fine-art, and why it should be encouraged, rather than discouraged in the way I described. For me and for a number of other artists I know working in similar modes, it is important to be aware that we have developed from comics into fine art, not the reverse, as was true of most of the pioneers of Pop Art (esp. Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol).




The Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein were the first to begin breaking down this barrier from the "fine" side. His work began as "slumming," yet he gained respect for comic art as he developed. Stuart Davis is probably the godfather of it all as well. He is far too seldom mentioned, and was not a direct influence on me, but important nonetheless. I plan to discuss him in my dissertation.

Many fine artists today grew up with comics as their first art source, thus referring to them without cynicism.

My paintings, for instance, even when ostensibly abstract, featured images conceptually derived in processes reminiscent of John Cage or Marcel Duchamp.

Enlargements through many machines, gathering errors.

I have great respect for and influence from Cage and Duchamp, for Marc Rothko, Jackson Pollock, R.B. Kitaj, Edith Altman — and Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, and Al Williamson.

Stuart Davis (51)



Lichtenstein developed away from an artist trying to shock the elitist art world into one using a new-found language to express philosophical considerations — and his children preferred his comic style over his earlier abstract work too!

Roy Lichtenstein (52)



I have repeatedly collaborated with Duncan Youngerman, a "serious" new music composer from Paris, who is also highly influenced by comics. We have discussed this in detail.


To both of us it is clear that we are not slumming, no matter how much higher education we have had. This is our — this is my culture —, an inherited vocabulary, even if it is perhaps habitually insufficient as James Brown has said; an inheritance and "scene of instruction" from which I am attempting to forge something meaningful. I have seen Brown cited in this several times, but cannot locate an original source, so I suspect it is apocryphal, but beautiful anyway.

Cheerful Error (53)

I have an integrative yet divided allegiance. One in which the "coincidence of contraries," is pre-eminent, to borrow Nicholas of Cusa's term, a 15th century Christian mystic and scientist (mentioned in his works De Visione Dei, A Vision of God, and De Docta Ignorantia, Of Learned Ignorance. Coincidentia oppositorum, the resolute adjoining of opposites.


By the way, I went TO painting --- away from my earlier purely-conceptual work, by way of comics. I was a traitor, just as certain pundits came into Chicago and forced Neo-Conceptualism. Baaaaad career timing! I realized that such work was the new academy. I have a paper on Neo-Conceptualism as the new academy, with reference to the historical French academy and to Mannerism, if anybody wants to print that sometime. It is seemingly rather a "hot" potato; according to a few editors, who told me clearly they would be afraid that it might insult gallerists..

"Shoot" Self-Portrait (54)



At first my paintings and installations appeared more abstract. Perhaps I was veiling my comic and sign-painting influences too much. Nevertheless, they were in truth images composed from enlarged, series of machines. Cageian search for mistakes, gathering errors. Usually from a small initial image in a comic style.

Team-Up (55)



I even did a large couple. Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the corner. Based on corners in comics. It is a painting of a corner in and on a corner. Huge.

St. Gallen Corner (56)

Corners from a comic (57)

Another was in the Kunstmuseum Thurgau. Conceptual / Painting. Malerei? Malerei! I' was often the "painter" in neo-conceptual art shows. Here I was the somewhat conceptual guy in a painting show, so instead of a painting on canvas, I did the Wall and cover of the catalogue as a kind of multiple..

What The...?!
Thurgau corner (58) (59)


Thurgau catalogue cover

I discovered that a several gallerists, approaching me, viewed the work which was similar to the St. Gallen Corner as "quasi-" expressionist. That disturbed me. So I began to make the popular aspect clearer. Making some clearer references such as in this large painting (size), which also brought the installation concerns into a single work.

painting (61) (62)

Sequential Litho

Tornado Romp (63)

My chief tools are the conceptual merger of reading and viewing, and most of all what I call "iconsequentiality." A compositional form, with wonderful tropaic implications.

Frank King, Gasoline Alley: You have a full-page picture divided into numerous panels, where it all was understandable as one picture, yet there was a moving element in it.

Jack Kirby page with diagram (64)

the Gasoline Alley page (65)

Iconosequentiality is my neologism for the unique combination of forms of phenomenological perception in comics — and my art. Viewers frequently perceive both the entire page as an iconic unit, similar to a traditional painting, and simultaneously follow the flow of narrative or images from panel to panel, left to right, up to down. It is concurrently whole/part and openly linear (even multi-linear with the possibility one has to glance "backwards" and "forwards" if desired, while reading).

It is therefore ontologically as well as phenomenologically both iconic and sequential. Aesthetic attention becomes a wonderfully anti-purist conceptual blend of, or perhaps flickering between, a rich variety of forms of reading and viewing, most of which are under the control of the perceiver. The ultimate hyper-text/hyper-image united with the joys of an image's patient always-there, self-reliant presence.


History of composition. Crucial, not for "significant form" or an march of history, but for personal metaphoric use.

Kreuzlingen again (66)

From the conceptual hierarchies of early art, to the overlapping levels of Medieval art, from the Golden Rectangle and Triangle of the Renaissance, to Mannerist routines, from the Baroque spiral-into-space, to Rococo curlicues, from Neo-Classical and Romantic asymmetry, to the shocking yet "relational" composition of early abstraction, from the all-over of Pollock, to unitary Pop and Minimalist form, from Neo-Platonic yet temporal Conceptual art systems, to the environmental envelopment of installation, to now — the tackling of the practical and philosophical problems of composition in art (especially painting) has been an impatient, important, agonistic struggle. Not in order to simply form novel conventions, but to move on to distinctive organizational structures, new tropes useful for the embodiment of arisen desires. Now we need one beyond the affected maniere a la Duchamp of Postmodernism so far; one for our new critical anti- purism.


In addition to the integration of a "media" awareness, such as that displayed in David Reed's filmic-bruskstrokes, this can be the central compositional trope we need. The new "working space" Frank Stella has called for.


Such a factor determines the specific modes of attention which comics need — especially the reading/viewing amalgamation true of gallery comics as well —and which make such works potentially far more radically liberating in form than many traditional or even most so-called new media.

Thumbs in color (67)

Iconsequentiality has the inherent predisposition to be tropaically democratic. It is also a step beyond Pollock's revolutionary "overall" composition, while embracing that discovery, as well as its child, installation, and not retreating to relational balancing games or Duchampian knock-offs, which stipulate hierarchical metaphors I find repulsive. Iconosequentiality offers an arena for individual development.






My newest developments? Uniting Panels and Covers in various fashions.

Thumbs. explain prints, drawing to painting.


Returning Characters, "stars" such as that Whorl Earl.

Still thumbs

Hirschhorn (68)





I do have one fear concerning gallery comics, or "nu-pop" works — the fear of being in permanent "opposition." If geometric abstraction is the current architectural-decorative mainstay, if Neo-Conceptualism is the curatorial mannerist academy, then popular-influenced work runs the risk of becoming the permanent outsider, permanently in the opposition, like a European parliamentary Socialist, or the Democratic Party in the US now.

Brillo Krazy Cartoon (69)

And yet — I believe that in iconosequential artworks, in gallery comics and its cousins, we show the way for a new breakthrough out of our current malaise.


The absorption of the lessons of comics brings us to the verge of a radically new view of not only art, but of the history of art as well, one transuming Danto’s institutional aesthetics, and finding sustenance in Carrier's epistemological aesthetics. The future of both fine and comic art might not be posthistorical, but rather polyhistorical. This is an portentous expansion of art and art history. If I may be so bold, I would offer a useful metaphor for this. Media theorist Christian Doelker, in his book Ein Bild ist mehr als ein Bild, has supplied an alternative reading of the word text. While most literary theorists use the term to prejudicially favour reading over seeing, Doelker traces the term back to its root in weaving — such as the Latin infinitive tegere —or a cable. This is a highly evocative image. I picture, in a very Wittgensteinian manner, an interwoven mass of filaments, some longer, some shorter, each a "history," each independent to an extent, yet touching on various others, some ending only to begin again farther on, all travelling nonetheless in certain concert. Suggestively, comics at their best merge reading and viewing — we are back to the mongrel or creole approach — while having a history not based solely on purification or technical or fashionable change. History can thus be seen as a cable of integrated stories; we have simply focused far too long on only one strand. Again to use Doelker’s terminology, we could have an art history which is plurogenic (multistrand), as opposed to Gombrich or Greenberg or Danto’s monogenic (single strand) conceptions. This is a philosophical vision with immense significance for new painting in particular, but all other media as well.

Kreuzlingen again (70)



Close. Invite me to your place --- and I'll turn it into a gigantic, walk-in quasi-abstract, fairly conceptual Panels comic, with some smaller commentarial, exegetic Covers paintings too.

The actual close: My work contains a celebration of the remarkable discoveries of comic art, used to enliven the currently moribund und mannerist fine art world, thus it is a critique as well. Contrarily, though, it is also a celebration of what the ambition of fine art in form and content can bring to comics, again therefore a critique.

I prefer to emphasize the celebratory aspects. In a complex, challenging and highly promising new arena of art.


Hand out viewers to audience. Viewers for the viewers.


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