Staff Recommendation: Abstract Comics – by Tyler Crissman

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Abstract comics? You mean, it’s not funny, and there’s no story? Is this some pretentious hipster fodder?

 

Abstract comics might not sound like something worthwhile — and it’s probably not everyone’s cup of panelized tea. However, it can’t hurt to take a sip of some of its many different flavors. A great place to start is Abstract Comics: The Blog (link: http://abstractcomics.blogspot.com/) , which posts great abstract comics like the one below (“conversational maladjustment” by Rosaire Appel):

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(link to image: https://artduckomagazine.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/8d17b-appel-convers-right.jpg)

 

There’s also an abstract comics page on a Russian social media site called VK (link: http://vk.com/abstract_comics), posting pieces from various artists. As with Abstract Comics: The Blog, there are too many great pieces from various artists to include them all here, but here are some examples:

A page from “Cidre Et Schnaps” by Ibn Al Rabin

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(link to image: http://cs629427.vk.me/v629427079/63ac/isdxiqe3KTk.jpg)

 

 

A piece by Andrei Molotiu, who runs Abstract Comics: The Blog

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http://cs621717.vk.me/v621717731/14340/5_4yonIwfD4.jpg

 

Hopefully, these examples of abstract comics show the value of this breed of comics better than words can. Like abstract works in general, although they are not representational, they can evoke feelings. That could be a simple “This looks cool,” or the response of being emotionally moved, or any of a range of feelings. What is more, the medium of comics makes such works more than simply abstract art. That is not to disparage non-comics abstract art, but merely to note that abstract comics is a more specific form; panelization makes a world of difference. Since there is an established way of reading comics as sequences, progressing from panel to panel, as well as simultaneous, singular compositions, abstract comics are more than just abstract pieces with dividing borders. They have a sequential quality by definition, as comics. Granted, panel divisions in comics do not necessarily indicate chronological sequence, or any sequence, but, as a way of reading comics, sequentiality is always present, even if as a ghost.

What is more, the concepts that artists use as the whole of abstract comics can be — and, really, always are — applied to more conventional, representational comics. One doesn’t need to look any farther than mainstream superhero comics, or even newspaper strips, to see the use of abstract and formal techniques in telling ultimately representational, literal stories. Really, all comics, regardless of quality, have at least some of these qualities by necessity — panelization, composition, impressionistic depictions, and so on. Looking at purely the abstract can shed light on how different techniques affect our reading of representational comics, as well as having its own inherent value. (A great essay on abstract and superhero comics can be found in the book Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods, namely, Andrei Molotiu’s “Sequential Dynamism and Iconostasis in Abstract Comics and in Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man“. Highly recommended.)

Finally, a last sample of abstract comics: two of a series of pieces generated randomly by a computer program, put together by Alexey Sokolin and posted on The Abstract Comics Blog. Even though these comics were made randomly, it is hard not to impose some kind of sequentiality and meaning upon them. They can even be poignant, a great testament to the power of the human mind to “make” art by seeing it, and of comics to help the mind do so. (link to the whole, albeit brief, series: http://abstractcomics.blogspot.com/2015/11/abstract-comics-using-code-software-art.html)

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