The Art of Comic Books
Despite its title, “A Shared Universe: The Art of Comic Books” displays art from at least two different solar systems. The Mansion at Strathmore exhibition features panels by traditional comic book illustrators, including Bob McLeod (Marvel’s “The New Mutants”) and the late Warren Kremer (such old-school titles as “Richie Rich” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost”). Also included are artists who have updated the form for the Internet, such as Phil and Kaja Foglio (“Girl Genius”) and Kate Beaton (who offers a feminist quick take on “Jane Eyre”). These artists and writers are placed in a context that runs from “The Yellow Kid,” a strip that debuted in the New York World in 1895, to today’s graphic novels.
Worlds apart, at least conceptually, are such contributors as JD Deardourff, Mark Newport and Andrew .Wodzianski. Deardourff, who showed at Hillyer Art Space in January, uses the visual elements of Marvel Comics but banishes human (or superhuman) figures. His work is in part a homage to low-cost commercial printing, although his screenprinting technique is more refined than the four-color process of old “Fantastic Four” books. A display of his method reveals that it employs seven layers and no Ben Day dots.
For Newport and Wodzianski, clothes make the superman. Newport knits costumes for commonplace heroes, using acrylic wool for a baggy, unathletic look. His “Sweatermen” outfits are more suitable for lounging around the house than vaulting past skyscrapers. Wodzianski does meticulous portraits of himself as various “fanboys” in masks and matching T-shirts, showing their devotion to the likes of Iron Man and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No pen-and-ink for Wodzianski; his hyperrealist pictures are oils, like the work of Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo (if not Donatello).
A Shared Universe: The Art of Comic Books On view through June 8 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, Md. 301-581-5109