Flog!'s North Carolina Bureau Chief Rob Clough attended the opening of the Dash Shaw show at Duke this past Friday night and was kind enough to provide us with this exclusive report:
Dash Shaw's show BOTTOMLESS at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University debuted on Thursday, September 25th. The well-attended opening was a multi-media affair that was as much about process as it was about a final product. The way that curator Diego Cortez designed the show gave a unique glimpse into Shaw's method. By juxtaposing Shaw's original pencils against his color sheets on the walls of the exhibit, the viewer could see the way Shaw composes color for his pages is unusual. On display were pencils and color pages from his webcomic BodyWorld and MOME short stories "Train" and the upcoming "Satellite CMYK". That latter story may well be his best effort yet.
There were also some other unusual entries, like a drawing Shaw made of himself and Barack Obama as surfers.
Shaw also had the animation he created for his book BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON showing on a continuous loop, surrounded by drawings he made as individual frames he drew for the animation. Those were fascinating to look at, given the way they reflected his book's motifs so vividly. Shaw told me that he was in negotiations with IFC to do a series of short animations that would air on that cable network. He's also creating a short BodyWorld feature that will act as a trailer for that work when Pantheon publishes it. Chip Kidd will be helping Shaw design the book, which will have an unusual format.
On September 26th, Shaw was joined by his former thesis advisor and friend Gary Panter, the great multimedia artist and cartoonist for a discussion of Shaw's work. Discussing BodyWorld, Shaw noted that he was inspired by some webcomics he saw that were created by teenagers with no audience. They simply made these crazy adventure stories because they felt compelled to create and explore their own worlds, even if it was one that no one else saw. "I wanted to be that kid", he enthused, feeling drawn to the weird ways in which these comics didn't conform to standard comics language. He felt as though it was much like the dawn of newspaper comic strips, where there were no rules and many possibilities. He went on to note that Boney Borough, the experimental, wooded town in BodyWorld, was inspired by the original design for the EPCOT center as an actual place to live.
Shaw went on to describe his experiences as a student in Japan, the ways in which manga influenced his storytelling choices in BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, and how he views autobiographical comics as a genre like any other. Panter said that Shaw was an easy student to work with because of his work ethic, and Shaw thought that many of his classmates at the School of Visual Arts were lazy. Panter bemoaned the fact that many of his students couldn't even produce a page a week, blaming it in part on distractions like video games and the internet. Shaw gently chided him for that comment, saying "You're such a dad!", but Panter was adamant about this point, as well as his view that artists didn't take advantage of libraries as a set of visual resources and inspirations.
When asked about a comment he made regarding beauty, Shaw made a distinction between "pretty" (a surface quality) and "beautiful" (a quality of depiction that attempts to get at the truth of something). Panter noted "Aesthetics is a form of seduction", creating a relationship between art and viewer. Shaw was asked about his opinion of comics becoming movies these days. Shaw said that what was interesting about this trend was the way personal visions were being portrayed on the screen. Whether or not you thought SIN CITY was a good movie, he noted, the fact that Hollywood didn't make Frank Miller change this yellow character was an interesting thing. He also said that producers are gobbling up comics these days, in part because a comic book looks a lot more like a movie than a screenplay; it's easier to digest. He related a story of some writers he knew who couldn't sell scripts, adapted them to comics for small-press publishers, and then sold them subsequently.
BOTTOMLESS will be at the Franklin Center's gallery until October 31st. Anyone interested in Shaw's comics or the process of making comics will want to see this show.
Photo 1: Dash Shaw
2. Gary Panter
3. Wall of drawings
4. Page from BodyWorld
5. Display of books
6. Color and black & white pages
7. Another color/B&W comparison
8. Dash and cartoonist Eric "Mickey Death" Knisley
9. Curator Diego Cortez (L), Gary Panter and others
10. Stills for the Bottomless Belly Button animated featurette
21. The animation, shown on continuous loop
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