13 June 2010

POW! ZAP! PUNCH! Super Heroes And The Abstract Icons Of BOB KESSEL

Crazy-fresh back from her guest-lecturing gig at gay ParisMusée du Louvre,  our super quirky Superhero Artisan is back -- and she's already mixing it up like mad. Check back with her last two turns on the comicsblog and you'll see what we mean: Michael Myer's 'super minimalism' collides with Rodolforever's deco distillations in a colorful explosion of angular abstractions, and the result is the work of commercial artist and illustrator Bob Kessel

Kessel has been in front of an easel for over thirty years. His many series include works inspired by masters from Matisse to Michelangelo and themes as exotic as Japanese erotica, but comic books' (and anime) inescapable iconography is one area in which he clearly revels.   And he approaches those heroic subjects from the outside in: begin with Kessel's Mythology or Minotaur, proceed past the somewhat muted colorings of his Pulp Art to the Picasso-esque abstractions of his Roy Lichtenstein homages, and ZAP! WHAM! POW! you've arrived where the real fun begins.
Err, make that POW! WHAM! ZAP!, Kessel's newest art series to celebrate American super heroes.  Combined with the many pieces of his other super series, POP unintentional, and his timely tilt to IRONMAN2 (see also below), it's relatively quite incredible how numerous his comics-inspired works are. 

But they might not be for everybody.  Geometric and linear - Euclidean Geometry or Invisible Plane being just two great examples (not to mention puns) - Kessel's particular subjects should stand out to comics fans, a group more skilled in art theory than some may think and who are more than familiar with abstract symbolism. Because that's what superheroes are - symbols. Comics are filled with the rectangular frames and active lines that also restrain and mobilize Kessel's work, and the colors of both function to identify as well as clarify (see Gossip below).

 The similarities to minimalism - our Superhero Artisan's favorite genre - are present throughout here, and Kessel works toward - and arguably reaches - the same goals of representation we've seen before on the comicsblog.  But each canvas in Kessel's comics collection is comparably busier, edgier, louder, and way more in your face. (Yes, that is a technical term from the Louvre, if you must know.) In Kessel's art, Hans Hofmann's simplification is working overtime, its principles evident in Kessel's emphasis on color and line and the spatial relationships created  as a result.  In those last points,  theoretically and visually, abstract expressionism -  appropriately also referred to as action painting - and minimalism diverge. 

But screw the art criticism! Art is a personal and subjective experience like sex or  appreciating Grant Morrison, so we're turning you loose to form your own opinion. Superhero Artisan's inclined to think that Kessel's a closet comic geek, though other critics across the comicsblogosphere have stated the artist simply appropriated comics' geeky goodness for his own purposes.  What say you dabblers? abbracadabbling wants to know all, so get at us once you get down the page and let us know what you're thinking. Deal? 










Artwork on today's comicsblog can all be found in the artist's online gallery - here.
Loving the abstract stuff? Follow Bob Kessel's art-centric blog - here.

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