I’ve been reading Masters of American Comics for the chapter I’m going to write soon, when I’ll fulfil a nerd fantasy and write a critical paper on Chris Ware. The book is a catalogue for what looks to have been an incredible exhibition, and one of the curators, John Carlin, has an excellent essay tracing the evolution of American graphic narrative. A nice bonus is the series of essays by people like Francoise Mouly, Jonathan Safran Foer, and, neatly for my purposes, Dave Eggers.
Eggers writes about Chris Ware, and though I can’t find the article online, I’ve put some nice quotes after the jump.
“There is an almost off-putting level of craft apparent in [Ware’s] sketches. They are architectural in their precision and daunting in the complexity of their planning.”
Detail and structure and plenitude and exhaustion.
“I’ve spent some time thinking about this, and I think [his work is] beautiful in the way that Nabokov’s work is beautiful. In both cases it’s clear that the creator believes in beauty for its own sake, and, more crucially, is capable of creating beauty anywhere and always.”
Beauty is such the best term to describe Ware’s work.
“Ware’s work is at once the most elaborate and the most controlled example of the comics medium yet produced. I don’t think anyone in any visual medium is making art that is more elevating. He makes us remember what is possible with very hard work and great planning and conceptual strength. Indeed, I think that’s a strange but essential by-product of people viewing his comics: they want to work harder on their own things. In that way he’s among the most exacting and prolific and industrious art-makers who also benefit from genius: they make the rest of us look like chumps, so they want to try harder.’”
Great planning and conceptual strength. Yes. This is not an accident.
“From the cover of American Illustration Annual to This American Life’s CD cover, every last thing he did was of exceedingly high quality. And that’s another side-note that’s difficult to explain: just how does he maintain such a level of across-the-board quality? There is never a drop-off. Everything is equally elaborate and thought through, and he almost never repeats himself. He seems to attack each new project, and each new page, with the mission to do better and to do something new.”
His This American Life animations? Whoa.
“It’s clear that Ware looks fondly back to a time before modernism crushed almost all of art’s flourishes, eccentricities and organic forms. But instead of simply reappropriating old forms, he channels the past by sublimating it, creating a style that, in the end, is sui generis, and almost untraceable to any artist before him.”
Ware as postmodern exemplar.