View on Canadian Art recommends HOT POTATOE

“Cartoon Art: Philip Guston, Marc Bell et al” / View on Canadian Art / Andrea Carson / November 19, 2009

What is it about the increasingly popular art that brings together illustration, graphic design, graffiti and cartoons? It’s a huge trend that you might say was begun, in its most recent form, by the American painter Philip Guston in the 1970s, when he abruptly dropped Abstract Expressionism for his own style that he’s now most famous for.

Guston made the change because he was looking for an art with more meaning. Speaking of his feelings in the late 1960s when America was at war, he said “I was feeling split, schizophrenic. (I thought) what kind of man am 1, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything - and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue. [..] I wanted to be complete again, as I was when I was a kid…. Wanted to be whole between what I thought and what I felt.”

The more recent resurgence of this type of work can perhaps be attributed to the likes of Marcel Dzama, Barry McGee and others, and its latest incarnation is in the work of artists like Jason McLean and Marc Bell.

Marc Bell debuts his new book, Hot Potatoe, with a two-person book signing and exhibition at Toronto’s Magic Pony, alongside Amy Lockhart. It opens on Friday, November 20 (That’s tomorrow) and the exhibition continues, I think, for a while.

Look out for my review of Hot Potatoe, by Drawn and Quarterly, which will be out in the January/February issue of Quill and Quire.

Until then, I’ve got to recommend this book. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, filled to bursting with Bell’s drawings, paintings, constructions and a very interesting double page of scans of his address book filled with random doodles. There are essays that make no sense, and some that make some sense. But it’s not about that. The book asks that you loosen your idea of what art is, of what an art book is.

It’s pretty great, especially if that cartoony, vintage-y aesthetic is your cup of tea.

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