April 16 through October 6
Why call this new museum show Beyond the Cape? Compared to so many other exhibitions around the world about comic books, this original and unconventional take soars beyond just superheroes.
Beyond the Cape! Comics and Contemporary Art shows how some of the most currently sought-after contemporary artists are influenced by graphic novels and comic books.
The artworks in this pioneering show making its world premiere at the Boca Raton Museum of Art take viewers on a deeper dive into adult realms, tackling some of today’s thorniest issues: politics, divisiveness, immigration, racial prejudice, planetary climate armageddon, feminism, LGBTQ rights, religion, gender, and more.
Left: Self Portrait with Haircut, by Peter Saul, (2003), courtesy of Shark’s Ink. Right: Burning, by Renee Cox, (1998).
Grouped together for the first time in this new way, the exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art features prominent artworld superstars, including:
Kumasi J. Barnett, George Condo, Renee Cox, Liz Craft, Kota Ezawa, Chitra Ganesh, Mark Thomas Gibson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Christian Marclay, Kerry James Marshall, Takahasi Murakami, Elizabeth Murray, Yoshitomo Nara, Joyce Pensato, Raymond Pettibon, Peter Saul, Kenny Scharf, William T. Wiley, David Wojnarowicz, and Michael Zansky.
Some of the most acclaimed underground comic book artists are also front-and-center, including: R. Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Mimi Pond.
Also featured in the exhibition are artists from The Hairy Who: Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Karl Wirsum.
The show features more than 80 works by 40 artists: paintings, video, photography, sculpture, prints, drawings, and tapestries.
Rare comics will also be shown, plus contemporary animation and rarely seen historic cartoons from the early 1900s on vintage TVs.
Clockwise: Four Elements (Earth & Wind, Fire & Water), detail, by David Wojnarowicz, (1990), collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody. Doorknob Painting, by Elizabeth Murray, (1984), collection of Agnes Gund. Burn Everything, by Yoshitomo Nara, (2008), collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody. Bubble Gum Pop, by Karl Wirsum, 1963, (detail), courtesy of Beth Rudin DeWoody.
This exhibition is curated by Kathleen Goncharov, Senior Curator at the museum. She recruited as her ‘muse’ for this exhibition Calvin Reid, the Senior News Editor at Publishers Weekly and a leading expert in the field of comics.
Reid was one of the first critics to recognize comics as a literary form for adults, and selected the comic books and graphic novels in the reading room where the public can comfortably lounge and enjoy reading (many from Reid’s own private library).
“Beyond the Cape delves into the world of comics and graphic novels and their influence on contemporary artists. Their work defies commonalities, but come together to present a boldly visual, eye-opening mirror of our contemporary world and present issues,” said Irvin Lippman, the executive director of Boca Raton Museum of Art.
Left: Expresses Nothing but the Self, by Enrique Chagoya, (2015). Right: Invites into the World of the Eternal Instant,
by Enrique Chagoya (2015), both courtesy of Shark’s Ink
Some of the surprising twists and turns visitors can see
at Beyond the Cape!
Elizabeth Murray began working with comic imagery in the 1970s, when minimalism dominated the art scene. Her personal, colorful work proved that painting was still relevant and ripe for innovation, and set the stage for a return to figurative work in the 1980s. As a child she drew from newspaper comic strips, and even sent a sketchbook to Walt Disney.
Kerry James Marshall’s work is currently at the very top of the art market. Known for his flat, colorful paintings of contemporary Black America, for the past 20 years he has been working on his comic series Rythm Mastr (set in the Black community where his Chicago studio is located).
The genesis of Rythm Mastr began with the demolition of public housing and the spike of violence in Chicago in the 1990s. He grew up in the Watts area of South-Central Los Angeles, and the Civil Rights and Black Power movements impacted this artist’s work.
Most assume comics are primarily intended for children, usually featuring super heroes as evidenced by today’s popular films – but this exhibition is decidedly for adults.
The only references to superheroes in this show are by Renee Cox (whose Jamaican anti-racist avenger Raje does not wear a cape), and Luca Buvoli’s animation Not-a-Superhero.
Art that is flat, graphic and colorful (like the art in graphic novels and comics), is taking center stage in the Instagram age. Artists, galleries and collectors are turning to social media as the place to promote their art and find art to purchase.
Looking beyond the 1960s Pop Art movement led by big name New York artists, this show features the “other” art movements from the 60s and 70s such as Bay Area Funk Art and the Chicago Imagists (who called themselves Hairy Who).
These artists rebelled against the formalist New York style, and during their youth, they were belittled as ‘provincial regionalists’ by the New York-centric art world of the time.
The Chicago artists in Hairy Who (Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, and Karl Wirsum) have greatly influenced younger artists of today.
A nod to Japanese Manga comics and graphic novels features two major artists: Takashi Murakami and Yositomo Nara.
Almost all of the artists in this exhibition are living artists, except for three: Elizabeth Murray, H.C. Westermann and David Wojnarowicz.
Two works by the Indian-American artist Chitra Ganesh. Above is titled City Inside Her, (2014), and below is Manuscript, (2018),a giant 3-D hand with projected henna designs used by women in India and the Middle East
Chitra Ganesh is an Indian-American artist who combines the iconography of Hinduism, Buddhists and South Asia pictorial traditions with the contemporary popular visual language of comics, illustration and science fiction.
Her work will include a giant 3-D hand with projected henna designs used by women in India and the Middle East. She will also show a series of work loosely based on the comic book series Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Illustrated Stories).
Ganesh’s original comic book premiered in India in 1967 and was intended to teach children traditional historical and religious stories. Unfortunately, the original series reinforced the caste system with its attendant issues of race and gender. In her work, Ganesh flips the script by highlighting alternative feminist narratives.
California artist Peter Saul, 85, was not taken seriously outside of California until relatively recently. Today his work is in great demand and is a major influence on young artists. Similar to comics, his work is irreverent, idiosyncratic, colorful and political.
Koto Ezawa’s comics-inspired animation tells the story of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum art heist.
Michael Zansky, the son of Louis Zansky who drew the early “Classic Comics” in the 1940s, is a painter and multi-media artist whose monumental large cut, burnt and carved wood panels feature mysterious hybrid creatures inspired by comics, ancient art and works from the Western art canon.
Another family connection is Jody Culkin who is a descendant of Harriet Hosmer, a prominent neo-sculptor who lived in Rome in the 19th century. Hosmer was a scholar, an inventor, writer and feminist. She wrote a play set in London and in the then-future (1977) in which mummies come to life in the British Museum. Featured in this exhibition is the rarely seen animated comic Culkin made about this play.
Kumasi Barnett uses actual comic books in his work to create new characters such as The Amazing Black-Man. His nine works featured in this show will be encased in plastic, the way rare comics are sold.
What if … #31 Black-Man had kept his cosmic powers, by Kumasi Barnett, (2016)
THE IKEA READING ROOM
An extensive reading room designed by IKEA features hundreds of graphic novels and comics for the public to comfortably peruse in a relaxed setting.
Selected by Calvin Reid, Senior News Editor at Publishers Weekly, the 200+ comic books and graphic novels include many from his own personal library.
The public can enjoy reading works by Lynda Barry, Allison Bechdel, Roz Chast, R. Crumb, Aline-Kominsky Crumb, Mimi Pond, Trina Robbins, Art Spiegelman, George Takei and Ronald Wimberly, and many others.
Reid began writing in the 1980s, about the same time Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb, alumni of the underground RAW comics, emerged as serious figures in the comic world. Spiegelman’s MAUS is probably the first graphic novel to reach a wide audience.
A goal in providing the reading room is to inspire fans of graphic novels who may not be prone to visit a museum to take the leap, walk into a museum and experience works of art in person. Rare comics and a series of contemporary and historic animation works will also be on view.
Left-to-right: Zap Comix, No. 1, by R. Crumb, (1967); The Portable Hairy Who, by The Hairy Who, (1966), both are from the collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody
Support for this exhibition is generously provided by the Museum’s Leadership Fund, with major funding from: Estate of Ardele L. Garrod, Isadore & Kelly Friedman Foundation, PNC Bank, Jody H. & Martin Grass, Anne & Scott P. Schlesinger, Jennifer & Marc Bell, Dalia & Duane Stiller, Susan & Eric Kane and Laurence W. Levine Foundation, Angela & John DesPrez III, El Ad National Properties and Alina Properties, Joy & Richard Blakeman and Lisette Model Foundation, Karen Mashkin, Patricia Savides, Schmidt Family Foundation, the Museum’s Friends Auxiliary, and those who wish to remain anonymous.
In-kind corporate support for the exhibition is generously provided by IKEA.