From the late 1960s to the mid-’80s, Kuniko Tsurita’s work broke the mold for women comic artists in Japan. As the sole female regular contributor to the alternative Japanese manga magazine Garo, Tsurita rejected shōjo, a cutesy style that infantilized women. The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud, a new anthology of her work, translated by Ryan Holmberg, brings to light her innovative style, dark humor, and feminist ethos.
The lengthy contextual essay at the end of the collection (the book reads back to front, right to left, in traditional Japanese fashion) draws out not only the stylistic evolution of Tsurita’s work, but also the cultural context in which she lived and worked. As Holmberg and Mitsuhiro Asakawa write, “her early work often followed ‘masculine’ norms in genre and expression, while also growing increasingly androgynous or female-centered in ways that marked it different from what was being drawn by men.” The selection of 18 black-and-white comics illustrates this approach, as well as the stylistic shifts and diversity of her imagery over such a short period of time.
The stories “Nonsense” (1966), “Woman” (1966), and “My Wife is an Acrobat” (1974) favor more minimalist styles, solid black backgrounds and simplified faces and figures, making use of the margins, blank space on the page and in the frame, as well as asymmetrical layouts. “Woman” in particular has very little dialogue or text, and instead uses bold patterns and textures to create drama and plot. Meanwhile, others, such as “Anti” (1967), “Sounds” (1969), and “Occupants” (1969), are drawn in a Pop Art style, with dense, busier layouts featuring large text bubbles and bursts, like the “ZHK ZHK ZHK ZHK ZHK” and “COUGH COUGH” that begin “Anti” and the “PSSH” at the start of “Occupants.”
Gathered together in The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud, such stylistic differences across her oeuvre are now more discernible, affirming Tsurita’s role as pioneering comic artist (no gendered qualifier needed!). At last, her short career (she died at 35) can finally be recognized in mainstream comics.
The Sky Is Blue with a Single Cloud (Drawn & Quarterly, 2020), by Kuniko Tsurita and translated by Ryan Holmeberg, is now available on Bookshop.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.