HOT POTATOE reviewed by The Walrus

“Hot Potatoe” / The Walrus / Sean Rogers / November 17, 2009

If you find Canadian artist Marc Bell’s work forbidding, too dense, too busy, flip to plate 102 in Hot Potatoe, the new monograph devoted to his work. “Start here!” the drawing advises in its upper corner, with an arrow pointing to a hand-lettered title that reads, “Not Comics or Video Game.” Then move your eyes down through the composition, past the head of a malformed “tuff guy,” to his epaulet- and Easter egg–clad shoulders, through his patchwork body where critters romp and expostulate, and finally over to his knuckly paw, in which he grips a single rasher plucked from an enormous pile of bacon. Around and across this weird being, Bell scrawls a series of notes-to-self, asides that dwell on fantasies, finances, world events, and the Muppets.

With its jaunty self-references (“a real turning point in my career”) and catalogue of Bellian tropes (did I mention the bathtub full of wieners?), the piece is, in a sense, a primer for the artist’s other “fine ahtwerks” from the past eight years. Hot Potatoe collects many of them, frothing mishmashes of portraiture, topography, cutaway diagrams, automatic writing, and athletic socks. Bell’s most visible works have long been his comics, and while some strong examples anchor this volume, Hot Potatoe’s main virtue lies in teaching us how best to peruse not just his strips, but all the man’s creations. Like his sequential art, Bell’s other “werks” (prints, watercolours, mixed media concoctions) benefit from a thorough read, rather than the old gallery wall once-over.

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