Comics Trip !

29 October 2021 – 20 February 2022 

The desire begins with the demand to live not as an object but as a subject of history – to live as if something actually depended on one’s actions – and that demand opens onto a free street. 

Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces, A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, 1998

My friend Goo has a real tattoo

She always knows just what to do

She looks through her hair like she doesn’t care

What she does best is stand and stare

Sonic Youth, My Friend Goo, song from the album Goo, 1990

Cover designed by Raymond Pettibon

Imagined as part of the program of BD 2020 – the Year of the Comic Strip in France – the Comics Trip! exhibition is envisaged as an incisive journey into the heart of radical drawing practices within contemporary art. It investigates the links that artists have forged with comic strip aesthetics and narrative drawing over the past sixty years and sheds light on the work of certain alternative comic strip artists working in the underground or whose practice deliberately departs from the expectations of a restrictive mass culture industry.  

Bringing together the drawings, paintings, sculptures, videos, music, and documents of over thirty artists from the 1960s to today, Comics Trip! presents several generations of artists engaged in deconstructing our relationship with the canons of good taste and beauty, in breaking down borders between high art and popular culture, and whose work is imbued by the subcultures with whom they share time and space and that they feed into. 

When Roy Lichenstein began appropriating American comic strip imagery in the 1960s, blowing images up to reveal the dots and the processes of mechanical printing, he opened the door to new forms of practice – alongside other leading figures of Pop Art – and introduced into the field of modern art a whole system of representation and production specific to popular culture. Diverted from their initial destination, enlarged, reframed, the images invite a poetic appropriation of a standardised everyday life, whilst also breaking down the mechanisms of influence and the vacuousness of the discourse of mass culture. Bertrand Lavier takes on the role of an amused post-Duchampian neighbour when he creates real life representations of paintings and sculptures extracted from vignettes telling the story of Mickey Mouse’s astonishing visit to a modern art museum. Killofer, Titziana La Melia, Gala Vanson or François-Xavier Courrèges subvert certain forms taken from animation and traditional illustration to nurture surreal worlds whose poetry becomes a weapon for the deconstruction of current norms. 

Raymond Pettibon displaces the pop aesthetic to the heart of hallucinatory drawings that initially feed into the underground music scene as sleeve art – for Black Flag and later Sonic Youth – before gaining autonomy and deploying an entirely new narrative schema, outlining with unprecedented boldness the entire mythology of an America beset by paranoia, that seems to live only through the adherence to messianic beliefs, whether from the major texts of monotheistic religion, New Age philosophies, conspiracy theories, or simply modern capitalism and the founding myths of the American Way of Life. Robert Combas, Mike Kelley, Steven Parrino, Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux or Jean-Luc Verna embrace a bawdy, trashy aesthetic recalling the performative energy of punk or noise rock, seriously challenging the notion of official taste and academicism. 

Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Rob Syers, Shyppy Mark, Vaughn Bode, and Charles Burns push back the same limits, from a profoundly underground comic strip world that they have invented, converging with issues that others are investigating from within institutions of contemporary art. 

The notion of monstrosity hovers nearby and is deployed with a certain elegance in the work of Carlos Amorales, David B., David Shrigley, Bonnie Collura or Marcel Dzama, in whose works hybrid or dystopian characters tell of the strangeness and violence of societies close to alienation. 

Then there are the poetic cutups of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rose Wylie, Yurikusa Naoko or Lawrence Weiner, sequenced apparitions of worlds where past, present, and future meet, under the vigorous strokes of Abdelkader Benchamma.

The idea of drawing as a space of freedom and possible revolt – “a precious moment of rupture” – emerges through these multifaceted (OK) and unclassifiable landscapes.

Artists :

Carlos Amorales, David B., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Abdelkader Benchamma, Vaughn Bode, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Bonnie Collura, Robert Combas, François-Xavier Courrèges, Robert Crumb, Julie Doucet, Marcel Dzama, Mark Fischer, Tatsuo Ishida, Daniel Johnston, Mike Kelley, Patrice Killoffer, Tiziana La Melia, Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, Bertrand Lavier, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Masse, Jean-Christophe Menu, Steven Parrino, Raymond Pettibon, Syers Rob, Mark Shippy, David Shrigley, Youth Sonic, Maple U.S., Gala Vanson, Jean-Luc Verna, Chris Ware, Lawrence Weiner, Rose Wylie, Naoko Yurikusa, Andrea Zittel.

Curator : Stéphane Ibars