Cartoonist Matthew Thurber, whose previous books include 1-800-MICE (2011) and INFOMANIACS (2014), takes on the art world in his latest book Art Comic, a series of interrelated stories about the trials and tribulations of would-be artists. The majority of the stories follow art students and recent graduates through their internships, art critiques, and first jobs at galleries and as artists’ assistants. Thurber maintains a satirical tone throughout the stories, both mocking and embracing assumptions about the ostentatious, elitist, out-of-touch nature of art school and the art market. The storylines flow in and out of each other, as they follow a range of characters, including a number of art students: two Matthew Barney-obsessed students, Cupcake and Boris, one of whom commits suicide after a difficult crit (we follow the rest of his storyline in heaven); Tiffany Clydesdale, who is constantly reprimanded for her religious beliefs, her interest in realism and figuration, and her love of Renaissance and Medieval art; and Walter Snegovoi, who takes a job as an assistant on a performance piece.
Other aspects of the book are purely humorous and mocking, as when two students stumble into a gallery opening. One exclaims, “OH MY GOD!! THIS IS INSANE!! IS THAT SALMAN RUSHDIE?” Another calls out, “THAT WOMEN LOOKS FAMOUS. WHO IS THAT?” Even art critics Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz make an appearance at an opening in Red Hook.
Thurber doesn’t leave us with a clean moral, or tidy ending to his series of comic jabs. Art Comic closes with the lines, “THE CREATIVE ACT SHALL ALWAYS TRIUMPH OVER THE DEATH CULTURE OF CAPITAL.” The book itself doesn’t seem to substantiate this claim, as character after character struggles to be creative against mitigating forces. The book’s most revealing aspect is its epilogue, in which Thurber breaks the fourth wall of narrative and speaks directly to his characters, in the style of a Platonic dialogue, about this very question. He discusses the message of the book, and if there is hope for young artists, revealing deep sincerity beneath the ridicule.
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Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
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Patrons can listen to a collection of 400 titles at the library and borrow them for up to three weeks.
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