Anger, Agnes, C. Che Salazar, and Abel Jiminez. The First Transmission of the Minimalist Comics Collective. DIY Jet Comics, 2009. 24p. $3.50.
This is a blatantly experimental comic, the title alone should tell you that. With a group name like “Minimalist Comics Collective” I was expecting to find some kind of manifesto within the pages of this comics pamphlet, and I wish such were the case, as I’d be curious to hear something of the artists’ perspectives on their own work. At times I am tempted to see it as a joke, yet some of the content has a clearly political theme, in a way that seems serious. The three artists, each working in a single primary mode, contribute short comics, mostly a single page in length.
Salazar makes comics that are just text in panels. The size and placement of the text is manipulated to create narrative effect. It reads a lot like concrete poetry, and reminiscent of Koch’s Art of the Possible work, though here Salazar’s work is completely computer generated. (If you go read my post on the Koch, I should note how Salazar’s work has made me rethink my opinion on Koch’s handwritten/drawn style.) The panels are perfect squares, the text is a mix of two fonts–a generic serif font and a generic sans-serif font–occasionally distorted by some basic image manipulation effects. No matter what the text said, or what narrative was communicated, the too generic appearance causes me to react against the work. I like the concept of comics without pictures, I’ve written about a bunch of examples of the past years and even made some myself. Looking at Salazar’s work makes me wish he’d tried putting a little more “hand” (as they say) into them, or at least showed that some thought were given to font choice. Maybe these harsh generic choices was purposeful and well thought through, but either way I think it is to the detriment of the work. It makes me rethink the pieces I did… Salazar has more success with the placement and movement of the text, and some of the pages are rather funny. I would be curious to see more work and how it would evolve.
Jiminez’s work is a different sort of abstracted minimalist comic. He uses a more conventional comics format–panels, characters, and word balloons–but his images are all abstracted down to harsh geometric shapes. Mostly tall, thin rectangles that represent characters/figures. With art like that, the work lives or dies by the narrative, primarily in the form of text. I didn’t find most of it very funny (your mileage may vary). His most successful page is called “Great Panels in Comic Book History!” where he redraws six panels from famous comics in his abstracted style: a rectangle stands under a moon talking about “great power” and “great responsibility”, two rectangles–“Father” and “Artie”–meet in the park, etc. In the first page comic “Intro” to this book, one of Jiminez’s panels namechecks “Longshot Comics,” and it’s hard not to think of that work and how perhaps the limit has already been reached and exhausted for this type of comic. If two rectangles are having a conversation, do we gain anything by seeing two rectangles in panels rather than just a written dialogue? Similar to Salazar’s work, Jiminez’s looks strongly generic with perfect rectangles, two sharp word balloons, and generic text. They seem tossed off almost. Even the generic text fits poorly in the generic word balloons (too tight), something that is easily fixed.
Agnes Anger’s work using appropriated photographs, in it’s own way as lacking in a personal hand as Salazar and Jiminez’s work. She has the fewest pieces in the book, one being the addition of word balloons with photos in them to one of Salazar’s all text pieces. Another is “Beautiful People Making Terrible Faces” where a bunch of actors photos are cropped and put into panels. “Blink and You Miss It” uses photos of tragedies of the most unequivocal variety (the holocaust, the JFK assassination, the Twin Towers falling) and fails to reach any depth of point.
There are some potentially interesting conceptual ideas at work in this publication, but the execution makes me think the concepts would have been more interesting as concepts than actual produced artwork. Look at me, arguing for craft…
[This is part 3 of a 30 part series where I am writing daily reviews for the month of December.]