Pop Sequentialism: The Art of Comics at Gallery 30 South
Gallery 20 South
On view through August 26th
Written and Photography by Patrick Quinn
To say that comic books have become a major part of our culture would be a vast understatement. Films based on popular Superhero characters dominate the box office and Amazon and Netflix both feature shows set in the Marvel or DC Comics universe. Every year, thousands of fans attend the San Diego Comic Con. Ironically, one of the criticisms of the annual event is that less and less attention is paid to the actual comics that inspired all of this. True fans argue that not only do today’s comics deserve more respect; they deserve to be treated as an art form. Original comic book drawings, while highly valued by collectors and fans, are rarely displayed on the walls of a gallery as stand-alone examples of art.
However, Gallery 30 South in Pasadena is doing exactly that.
Pop Sequentialism Version 2.0 is a follow up to a similar show which was mounted seven years ago. The pages on display are all from the personal collection of Gallery co-owner Matt Kennedy. As the former Director of the La Luz De Jesus Gallery, Matt is keenly aware of how influential comic books are on visual artists working today. Hanging on the gallery walls are original pencil and ink pages done on illustration board. These include such popular titles as Captain America, X-Men, and Daredevil and noted illustrators such as Frank Quitely, John Cassaday, and Steve McNiven.
Speaking as the event’s curator, Matt had this to say: “With this show, I wanted to feature as many steps in the process as possible. I opted not to include digital color proofs, because I wanted to present only pieces that had the hand of the artist on them. I would have included an original hand-painted color proof, but didn’t have access to any that were for sale that I felt were consequential pieces of comic book history.”
You don’t have to be a comic book fan to appreciate the work. One of the subtle pleasures of the show is how unvarnished the presentation is. The boards look as if they just came off the artist’s desk. Each artist’s individual style and approach is readily apparent. In some cases (like Frank Quitely’s Batman & Robin page), the penciler opted not to have their work inked, and so the pencils are the only original source beneath a digital coloring process. Frank Quitely often uses a blue pencil as his under sketch, then pencils on top of that, and scans and contrasts his pencils to get the inked look.
Michael Lark, who illustrates Daredevil does his sketching on a vellum-like paper in hard graphite. He then scans that and outputs in Blue Line on illustration board, which he then inks to produce the final original artwork.
Recently, there are a number of artists who start their sketch process on a Wacom tablet and output that in blue line, which is then inked by hand on a Blue Line illustration board to produce the final original artwork for publication. You can see this in Sean Phillips work on Incognito.
The show also features a presentation of original 3D production art from the archives of comic book hall-of-fame artist Ray Zone. This includes his collaboration with Will Eisner on The Spirit and pages from Sheena, and The Rocketeer. Ray Zone was a pioneer in converting flat images into stereoscopic images–particularly in comic books.
Everything in the show is for sale except for a double-sided page displayed in the center of the room. Matt Kennedy has described it as the “Holy Grail” of comic book art and one that has been accumulating folk hero status for the last few years. This artwork, a very early Batman preliminary page (1939-1940) is said to be definitive proof that artist Jerry Robinson co-created the Joker and that the clown prince of crime may have originally been part of Robin’s origin. Jerry Robinson was one of the original Batman artists, along with Batman’s creator Bob Kane. This piece has never been displayed in a public setting before and will eventually go to auction where it is expected to fetch over a million dollars.
Why would anyone pay a million dollars for a page of comic book art, you may ask? If Batman is one of our cultures most iconic heroes, then surely the Joker is one our most iconic villains. These characters have made an impression on our society in ways that most art never will. Perhaps it’s best to let Matt Kennedy have the final word on this.
“Regarding why I collect comic art, I would have to say that comics–specifically Superhero comics, are the American mythology. Reading comics expanded my vocabulary and collecting them gave me an appreciation for preservation. Getting to own a unique piece of the comics that I loved is a privilege that would be hard to achieve in any other area of collecting. I wrote an article years ago that got picked up by Forbes in which I presented a case study for the investment potential in original published illustration art. The return on investment has proven to be exponentially higher than any other art form or genre. So not only do I love it, it makes great fiscal sense.”
Gallery 30 South has only been open since February 2017, but in that short time, Matt Kennedy along with wife and partner Ai Honda Kennedy has presented a wide variety of shows. This includes solo presentations by Lindsey Way, Hip-Hop legend Chuck D. and Frances Bean Cobain whose first art exhibition sold out in a single day.
Pop Sequentialism Version 2.0 runs through Sunday August 26th.
Gallery 30 South is located at 30 S. Wilson Ave. Pasadena, CA 91106
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest @gallery30south
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Sunday 12 Noon – 6:00 p.m. or by appointment