Monday, May 18, 2015
Second only to humming, drawing may be our most intimate art form. Drawings can be personal and delicate and spontaneous. They don't require corporate funding, batteries, committee approval or a fancy uniform. Works of genius can be scratched on a prison wall with a rusty bed spring. As Roberta Smith wrote, drawings are "a direct extension of an artist's signature and very nervous system."
In my view, one of today's most interesting signatures belongs to Lynda Barry. I find her work brilliant and hilarious, but most of all she is a true original. Her distinctive voice has been untouched by the corporate deflavorizing machine.
The thing about drawing is that it works both ways; it's a direct way for an artist to project their ideas, but it's also a way for a viewer to look directly into an artist's nerve center, to see whether the artist really has anything to offer. There is no faster way to reveal you are a fraud than through the medium of drawing.
I've said many unkind things about punk drawing and the art in alternative comics; I find so much of the work in graphic novels to be lame, simplistic or prematurely weary. But Barry strikes me as one who does it right. She proves that a crude line can be beautiful, and perfectly suited to its content. If you follow her line into her nerve center you find she is rich, complex, inventive, authentic and unfailingly smart.
And unlike so many alternative comic artists, Barry understands the importance of design.
How often do you find work these days that is both true and a joy to read?