Around this time Picasso established a new sculpture studio in Boisgeloup, 65 km 40 miles north of Paris, and began to produce a series of sculptures, many of monumental proportions reminiscent of monolithic figures, Picosso's interest in sculpture at this time can also be traced in a number of etchings, drawings and paintings he produced based upon the theme of the sculptor in his studio. In this work, Picasso has represented the sculptor - probably himself - in a studio setting, contemplating his own works.
Two sculptures are also included in the composition: a large bust of a woman staring down at the sculptor; and, in the background, a nude figure, constructed from sensual rounded forms, caressing a tube-like element mounted on a plinth.
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Courtesy of www. From the very beginning I set out to impersonate my opposite number. The theorist, the guy who wrote all those books about comics, wanted you to stop and think about each and every panel, wanted to point to exactly what was happening on the page.
With The Sculptor , I wanted to create something utterly transparent, the kind of storytelling that pulls you in and within a few pages vanishes.
The Angel of Death and the Sculptor from the Milmore Memorial
The mode of presentation is invisible and the only things left are human beings, situations, the themes. I wanted people to fall into this book, be propelled from page to page all the way to the end and come out blinking in the sunlight. The difference is striking. In terms of your critical works, one of the ideas that you address in Understanding Comics that consistently excites my students is the comparison of comics to other media and how that can be limiting, but ultimately useful.
Comparing comics to film can be particularly compelling. And this applies to The Sculptor. I found this book to be particularly cinematic. But not in a visual way, not in the way you discuss in Understanding Comics. The narrative tropes in The Sculptor feel particularly cinematic. There is a certain sense of quickness, as Calvino would call it, in this narrative. SM: Very much so. In some respects, when a comic has a cinematic feel to it, in the telling, that is because of a direct influence. Will Eisner, for instance, was strongly influenced by film when he was doing his comic The Spirit in the s, which, in turn, influenced a lot of other comics after that.
You can see direct influences from film. But sometimes you can get that cinematic sensation simply because comics have successfully created that narrative momentum and verisimilitude that we associate with film. Film, when done right, is simply a seamless waking dream. And, if comics can achieve that same effect, then they can seek to arrive at the same destination having taken a different route.
All of these things can keep it nailed to the page. But I did not want it to be nailed to the page. I was thinking more like those people for whom the medium was not the point. I find a lot of people like my friend Kurt Busiek or Neil Gaiman are happy if they get the opportunity to go into other media. We met at the movies in college.
We go to movies compulsively. So I appreciate your engagement with film. What I think a lot of people are rediscovering right now is narrative. For instance, I am currently scripting a comic for a friend who will draw it. I was writing scripts for others to draw. But, for me, that forced me to engage with story in isolation, without being able to lean on my skills as an artist to bail me out.
The book is, in certain ways, a meta-criticism of the world of art criticism. It involves a sculptor who struggles with being aware of the critics and how he deals with that pressure. As a cartoonist yourself, I wondered, is this book, in any way, a response to the criticism that surrounds comics specifically? And, I think only very tangentially was it a response to my encounter with actual critics. Also, at the heart of it, is this notion that there can be a verdict. Each time it seems that David is about to realize his own genius, but as judgment is revealed, and his own self-reflection is revealed, his work is always brought down to earth again.
Even his ultimate gesture can still fall to criticism. SM: And to time. What his friend Oliver tells him is that people in the art world are looking for a single coherent vision. SM: Because they want the work to be an extension of you. David was unable to pull that out. By the way, if he had made masterpieces, from a storytelling point of view, I would not have shown you them.
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It was a similar challenge, I thought, to what Rachel Kushner had to face writing her novel The Flamethrowers that portrayed the life and work of downtown New York City artists in the s. The difference is, Kushner had to describe visual work verbally. You had to portray visual work visually.
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Kushner said that she drew from the historical and contemporary art worlds for inspiration. Were you inspired by any specific artworks when you conceived of the art portrayed in The Sculptor? SM: Sure. I happen to be surrounded by five different sculptures, by five different sculptors, and that has transformed the world I live in temporarily and I find that really intoxicating.
That is a real curse in the art world, because there is already a very famous dead sculptor named David Smith. I happen to like his early work. I like Louise Nevelson. I like Lee Bontecou, whose retrospective I only got to see pretty recently. I like Serra.
The Sculptor, 1931 by Pablo Picasso
This is why I only felt comfortable drawing the work of someone who remains an outsider, who cannot enter that world, who is not able ever again to penetrate that fortress. That work I could draw. I could draw work that could be rejected by a gallery. JDW: You made the choice that your David Smith would have the super power to be able to meld things and to sculpt and to make art. Is that a challenge you gave yourself? It came from the days when I still had one foot in that world.
It worried me. Yet, in some ways, that is what it was. But, I think I found a way to redeem the story by acknowledging the fact that it came out of my own past, it came out of this American power fantasy landscape.
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