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Comic Craze @ The Saidye Bronfman Center

Posted by Denis / May 17, 2007

20070517_ComicCraze1_BettinaHoffman.jpg“Crack the Sky aims to challenge viewers with a range of propositions, driven by the ideas of mostly Canadian cultural producers and shaped by new media. The majority of the artworks are generally interrelated by an overarching genre hybridity and an elliptical return to shifting border concepts.”

Translated from artsy-fartsy doublespeak, this means that this year’s CIAC-organized, Montreal Biennale has a little bit of everything. Including, but not limited to, the single greatest art form of all ... comic books! Saunter over to the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery at the Saidye Bronfman Center for the Arts and for the admission price of zip, nada, nil, zilch, you too can check out just how incredibly cool, crafty and varied sequential art can get.

“Comic Craze explores the rich and vibrant intersection of contemporary art and narrative expressions found in comics. This large scale exhibition demonstrates the importance and specific characteristics found in Canadian independent comic books, mini-comics, ‘zines and graphic novels.”

What this means, though it’s pretty clear, is: there be comics here! Loads of them – over 400 books from over 100 artists. Displayed in trees. Tall, precariously ‘planted’ cardboard tube trees that seem like they’re going to come crashing down each and every time you touch one of the comics lodged in their openings. (Fret not! They’re attached to the ceiling!) Add to that the large black skull with the shelf in the back, and you’ve got yourself the funkiest of bookcases!

Saywhatnow?! Perhaps the forest-like display is a metaphor. Forests are dark, creepy places where the
imagination can roam and you never know what you’ll find ‘round the next tree. Not to mention that, in art, forests conjure up as much sexual imagery as they do mystery and wariness. They can be as beautiful as they can be dark, depending on the person or point of view.

Kind of like the books on display.

How large scale the exhibition is may be debatable given that it’s basically one large room with books and the aforementioned skull, trees and another carpeted book display off to the side and nothing else. But the worrisome doubt of ‘Is this it?’ vanishes after a few minutes spent flipping through the assembled works.


Also: is what is basically a comic and ‘zine reading library really an ‘exhibition’? Bah, enough nitpicking.
Now, it must be known that my companion on my visit does not share my all-encompassing love for comics, yet even she found something to like in the exhibition, to the point where she even wished to purchase some of the things she read. Not a fan of the tight and tiny illustrations in some of the more dense works, there was more than enough awesome creativity and artistic talent available to ignite her imagination.

What of yours truly? Though you might find me reading New Avengers or Y: The Last Man before the pseudo-historical epic Louis Riel or Shary Boyle’s disturbing dreams and/or nightmares, the boundaries these artists’ pushed, their reinterpretations of the medium’s classic features (panels, pages, word bubbles and thought balloons) are, alone, more than enough to keep any ‘fanboy’ interested.

Standouts and discoveries (who has time to peruse every title!?) include La Fugue by Pascal Blanchet, the story of a lonely, old pianist looking back on his long life – all told in absolutely gorgeous single panel pages, with little if no text. That one book shows just how clearly and concisely the medium can tell a story in the hands of true talent.

Red White – a lousy tale may be an introduction to Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ interesting hybrid for most: Haida manga!

My friend found Luke Ramsey’s The Be Kind Be Cause booklet sweet, funny and beautifully drawn. The artist asked people what kindness was and drew them as animals answering the question.

You’ve got personal, private memoirs, abstract visions, hand-drawn and hand-collaged ‘zines, digitally-sampled and digitally-drawn graphic novels, and yes, even a super-hero comic (Captain Canuck!) – despite the exhibition’s statement of a superhero-free universes. You’ve got English and French books, unknowns and self-published works alongside the more well-known artists such as Seth and Michel Rabagliati, under imprints like Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly and Les 400 Coups.

Basically, if you don’t know what you like or even if you like comics and ‘zines and graphic novels, this may be your best chance to find out.

On until June 3rd at the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery at the Saidye Bronfman Center for the Arts, 5170 chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, west of the metro station of the same name. More Montreal Biennale action soon!



Zeke / May 17, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Don't forget that there is also the Symposium on contemporary Canadian comic culture happening tonight at 6pm.

See y'all there!
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