News about the premier academic journal devoted to all aspects of cartooning and comics -- the International Journal of Comic Art (ISSN 1531-6793) published and edited by John Lent.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Comics Happenings in Paris (post Angouleme)

Before Angouleme, fellow IJOCA exhibit reviewer Nick Nguyen and I saw the Dan Clowes show at Galerie Martel. Excellent show, even more excellent prices which we can't afford. Just look and weep. 

Here are some pics.

Post Angouleme, I spent a few days in Paris and like my buddy Dean said in his own report, there are so. many. comics exhibitions in Paris.

I only saw a fraction of the events but what I saw (or failed to see) has a common thread - social satire in our times. If Dan Clowes is the contemporary social satirist of the 1990s and 2000s, then Gilbert Shelton is the satirist of the counterculture 1960s (together with Crumb and others in the underground comix crew). I met Lora Fountain at Angouleme and told her I will visit Gilbert's show (I last saw him in 2014 in London), but it was closed on the afternoon I visited. They were supposed to be opened.. 

Undeterred, I hit the underground again to Maison de Balzac to see the small but delightful / insightful Balzac, Daumier and the Parisians show. Honoré Daumier was of course the prominent social satirist of the 19th Century. Pairing him with Balzac makes sense. 

I'll let the collaterals do the explanation here:

Although Balzac and Daumier may not have known each other well, they did cross paths in newspaper rooms and publishing houses. Their connection lies mainly in their keen outlook on their contemporaries. As a writer, Balzac painted a broad overview of society, analysing the customs of both the provinces and Paris. Meanwhile, Daumier used drawing mainly as a way of studying the little people of Paris.

This similarity has often been pointed out, particularly by Charles Baudelaire, to the point of suggesting that the two men shared a kindred spirit. Concierges, errand boys, shopgirls, cooks, labourers and merchants all feature prominently in The Human Comedy and in Daumier’s engravings. In both instances, their observations reveal society’s peculiarities, small-mindedness and ridicule, with little room for benevolence but great attention to humanity. The exhibition will highlight both men’s interest in social classification and the accuracy of their analyses of the qualities and shortcomings of Parisians, which still hold true to this day. The exhibition ends with a small selection of “in the manner of” pieces by contemporary caricaturists, which show that while Parisians have indeed changed, Daumier and Balzac’s perspectives are still lenses through which one can observe and understand society.

Not many cartoon fans were aware of this show or visited it. When I was there, it was mainly old folks visiting the house and exhibition. 

Next, thanks to the recommendation of Harri Rompotti, I walked very fast to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris before closing time to catch the Dana Schutz: The Visible World show. It is the first time that her work has been shown in France on this scale. While not a comic artist, I could clearly see the comics elements or influences in her paintings and sculptures. Her social commentary and satire of contemporary American life, society and politics reminded me of S Clay Wilson. 

To quote part of the collaterals:

Dana Schutz is a storyteller. Her work builds a world of unruly characters, human folly, deadpan predicaments and physical calamity. She often paints a dystopic portrait of today’s world, untethered to traditional notions of beauty... Recently her paintings have become more volumetric and allegorical, increasingly populated with clusters of colourful characters who may be floating through the night, perched upon an island of jawbones, or fighting to stand on top of a mountain. These visions of a post-apocalyptic world are influenced by her take on art history, from Bruegel to Alice Neel. They evoke the obsolescence of an ailing world, the vanity of contemporary mythologies and the breakdown of communication. 

I'll just let the photos do their job.

Finally, another nudge from Harri and I was at Halle Saint Pierre, just below Sacré-Cœur. It is the home of art brut, art outsider and naive art in Paris. The current exhibition HEY! CERAMIQUE.S was very good, showing 34 artists from 13 countries and for some, this was their first presentation in Europe. 250 works were on display with one third of them produced for the show. A fascinating display of the fantastic and the grotesque, these works would not be out of place in underground comix pages and transgressive comic works. 

Another exhibition on the ground floor, At the Frontiers of Art Brut, was mind boggling as well. According to the website, this exhibition “Aux Frontières de l’art brut” (the title of the show in French) presents 15 artists, unclassifiable according to the criteria of art brut or traditional naive art. Most of them did not receive any artistic training but they presented dangerous visions. Roger Lorance is outstanding. Somehow he reminded me of the anarchic spirit of Fletcher Hanks. In fact, for both shows at Halle Saint Pierre, I was pairing the pieces with outsider art I know in Asia. It would make a fun comparative exhibition. 

Roger Lorance

Okay there were way too many other events to talk about. Posy Simmonds at the Pompidou was good. She remains the predominant critic of our social mores, keeping us grounded. 

The major Joann Sfar show at the Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme was very, very impressive. 

And then there were the signings at the comic shops. Wu Shih Hung was one of the breakout Taiwanese artists at this  year's Angouleme (together with Evergreen Yeh) and I managed to drop by his signing in Paris to give some support. 

To read about Wu:

All in all, I spent more days in Paris than I had expected, even giving up a side trip to Brussels for a NATO HQ tour. Thanks for the offer, Nick. Next time!

(all photos by CT)

CT Lim

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