Steve Mumford's BAGHDAD JOURNAL in the Boston Globe

“Capturing the passion of music and war” / Boston Globe / Carlo Wolff / December 11, 2005

D&Q says: please note that BAGHDAD JOURNAL is not a Graphic Novel!]

On a nonmusical plane, several serious works have been released recently. Among the best are Steve Mumford's ''Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq" (Drawn & Quarterly, 244 pp., $34.95) and Joe Kubert's ''Jew Gangster: A Father's Admonition" (iBooks, 143 pp., $22.95).

Mumford's book is a full-color diary documenting four trips the New York artist made to Iraq between spring 2003 and fall 2004. The art is vigorous, impressionistic, and realistic. Like Mumford's writing, it's neutral, too -- at least on the surface. But between the lines and bleeding through the color washes are passion and sorrow. There are no heroes in Mumford's meticulous depictions of this ever-shifting, treacherous zone. There are, however, honesty and ambiguity and a reassuring sense of normalcy. Mumford's watercolors capture the temperature of the place, the hot light that gives Iraq its tension and danger. What's valuable is the way Mumford gives voice to Iraqi artists, to Iraqi kids playing, to what passes for regularity in a country that, he suggests, is inappropriately dramatized by mainstream media.


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