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Few art forms have gone as unchanged and unrespected for as long as sequential art, and yet none has had as tremendous an impact as the superhero comic book. Veritable templates for inspiration, comic book superheroes are the post-modern mythology, inspiring generations of global youth while reflecting the society that spawned them. More than just dynamic illustrations on a page, the comic book is a medium that tells stories, and by presenting an exhibition that celebrates the collaborations of the greatest storytellers, my intention is to open a serious dialogue on the importance of this art form.
And this would seem to be the time for it.
This past year, ten paintings by Andy Warhol - an artist who began his career riffing on the iconography of comic books, broke auction house records with realized sales surpassing one hundred, thirty-six million dollars. If there is a single bridge between post-war and pop art, it would have to be comic books. The fact that painted misappropriations of iconic comic book images command the respect (and extravagant prices) long denied to their source material is ironic in the truest sense of the word. Collectors of sequential production art have been privy to the biggest bargain in contemporary art for decades, making it all but impossible to organize a gallery sale of the absolute best. This show features forty imprtant examples of modern comic book art from multiple, award-winning writers and artists, and there isn't a single piece priced above three thousand dollars thus presenting a golden point of entry for patrons looking to diversify their Pop-Art collections with some of the most exciting creations from the pride of the genre.
Pop Sequentialism is the first important survey of comic book art from the modern era, and the debut presentation at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in May 2011 made history.
In years past there have been a handful of museum exhibitions showcasing art from comic's Golden and Silver Ages and there have been several shows dedicated to the individual titles and imprints, but never before has such a landmark, and all-encompassing collection been offered for sale as part of a single gallery exhibition. I started collecting some of the pieces for this show over fifteen years ago, and it became apparent very quickly that hesitation was not an option. Most collectors of comic book art are voracious readers and collectors of the comic books that showcase that art. As such, pages depicting pivotal events from popular titles become highly sought not only for the art, but for the significance within the cannon. Pages featuring main characters in dynamic action are among the most highly sought, but more so are the first and final appearances of new heroes and villains, and those in which the story changes direction or a character's origin is revealed. Once purchased, the odds of them ever coming up for resale (affordably) is usually between slim and none. These pages represent more than just that which is pictured to the collectors who fondly recall all of the events of a series in that single page. To the comic book faithful, owning a Watchmen or All-Star Superman page is like owning the entire era in which those series were released, which also represents the rise of the comic book writer as media superstar.
All of the works featured in this show are from comic books released in the last quarter-century. To some, the is the Copper Age, the Iron Age or the Dark Age, but to most it is simply the Modern Age. This era was christened by the back-to-back releases of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. These and other early masterpieces from writers Moore & Miller helped to shape all the relevant work that followed, including every piece highlighted in this focused exhibition of heroic fiction. I'd love to be able to claim that every signature collaboration released in the two and a half decades that have followed is represented herein, but that was simply not possible. Pages from the modern masterpieces like Miller's Daredevil, and Dark Knight Returns or Moore's Miracle Man and Killing Joke were snatched up long ago and routinely command prices upwards of ten and twenty thousand dollars when they do appear for sale, which is hardly ever. There are many others who have made tremendous contributions to the medium who are likewise not represented, due mostly to the unavailability of key pieces, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better collection of Eisner, Harvey, and Inkpot Award winning work from the last 25 years.
Beginning with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen (first published in 1986) and arriving at Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming's Powers (still publishing, and headed for a television set near you), Pop Sequentialism includes original artwork from the landmark series and quintessential collaborations that have crossed beyond comic book fandom into the Pop zeitgeist, changing the perceptions and preconceptions of the hobby, the format, and the culture. No longer merely an American concern, the exhibition will be travelling to Europe, Asia and elswhere and evolving as old pieces sell and new pieces are added. This website will stand as a record of all pieces included in the various legs of the world tour and new art will be added periodically if not routinely. My love for the medium of comic book art is well documented, and now so is my respect for it (for without one there cannot be the other), and it's my great priviledge to invite the world to appreciate it with me.
Matt Kennedy is the gallery director of La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. His weekly column on pop culture and marketing, Exploiting the Media, was accessed every Wednesday at www.ForcesOfGeek.com from 2008 to 2011. He has curated public and private exhibitions in Europe, Asia, and throughout the Americas. Pop Sequentialism is published by La Luz de Jesus Press and available directly from the author.
La Luz de Jesus Gallery was established in 1986 as the brainchild of entrepeneur and art collector Billy Shire, considered largely responsible for fostering a new school of California art and prompting Juxtapoz Magazine to dub him "the Peggy Guggenheim of Lowbrow." Showcasing mainly figurative, narrative paintings and unusual sculpture, the exhibitions are post-pop with content ranging from folk to outsider to religious to sexually deviant. The gallery's objective is to bring underground art and counter-culture to the masses. Past shows have been groundbreaking, launching unknown artists who have since become famous, such as Manuel Ocampo, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams. A new exhibit opens on the first Friday of each month, with an opening reception that Details Magazine calls "the biggest and best party in Los Angeles."
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