Books

A Portrait of the Artist in Comix

by Kyle Chayka on January 19, 2011

The New Adventures of Grossmalerman #2 by Guy Richards Smit, Regency Arts Press

The New Adventures of Grossmalerman is a pulpy dime-store comic jaunt through the art world, suitable for anyone with a sense of humor, but especially for those with an underlying cynicism about their own art world adventures. Which makes pretty much all of us. The comic, published by Regency Arts Press and created by Guy Richards Smit, chronicles the life of Jonathan Grossmalerman, a late-career German painter “obsessed with fucking” and in possession of a large drinking problem. Think Archie on too many drugs with a predilection for large canvases of women bending over.

Grossmalerman, which is German for something like “big painter guy”, is an 80s artist after the bubble burst. In the process of becoming aged and washed up, the guy is still having big solo shows, fighting with his gallerists, and quite possibly getting kidnapped. In deft ink outlines, Smit makes a send up of the art world all the while celebrating our favorite things: unbridled egos, old grudges and… stabbings. Roughly, the 20-page story arc of this short comic sees Grossmalerman kidnapped in the trunk of a car, drunk in his studio, at a gallerist-directed intervention session, getting stabbed in a reconciliatory group hug and finally in therapy. And you thought your Friday night gallery crawl was eventful? The whole thing reminds me of a William Powhida artist-on-the-run narrative, which is funny, because Powhida once reviewed Smit for the Brooklyn Rail.

Guy Richards Smit, a musician and video artist alongside comic-creator, is known for lampooning the art world in his work. Working from the nerve-wracked and self-confidence lacking perspective of the struggling artist, Smit instills a feeling of desperation and hunger for something true in his stories, but that’s not to say he doesn’t enjoy a good alcoholic artist/parasitic gallerist joke just like the rest of us. Old friends and ex-dealers confront Grossmalerman with their grievances, but ultimately the artist ends up evading all criticism, stabbing someone’s cousin and getting a free box of vodka (plastic bottles only). Even after he gets stabbed in revenge for murdering a preparator’s cousin, Grossmalerman’s heart attack saves him from bleeding to death, only to reveal his sexual dreams to a therapist. Total revenge fantasy.

The New Adventures of Grossmalerman aren’t serious or subtle enough for constructive critique of the art world, but the comics are too hilarious to dislike. Like an art world slasher flick (artsploitation?) we’re treated to violence porn of the art world’s worst slights. It reminds me of Boston-based Big Red and Shiny’s White Cube comic by Thomas Marquet, but less depressing and more insane. Top it off with a page spread-drawing of Jasper John’s bronze Savarin coffee can sculpture in front of a big bottle of cheap vodka, and you’ve got yourself $5 worth spending. Any other art world comics out there that are this good? Cause I want more.

The New Adventures of Grossmalerman #2 by Guy Richards Smit is available from Regency Arts Press

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