Curtis Gannon (b. 1974) completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Houston, and then received an MFA in Painting at San Diego State University. Using American action comics as source material, Gannon creates collages, sculptures and installations that reference the Pop language of the medium and its influence as a universal form of visual communication. Gannon’s works have recently been exhibited at Blaffer Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Williams Tower, and Lawndale Art Center. Gannon lives and works in League City, TX.
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: The world of fine-art was introduced to comics most notably in the 1950s and early 1960s when Pop artists seeking to challenge traditional notions of fine art began appropriating the panel images from comics: e.g., Warhol’s Saturday’s Popeye (1960) and Superman (1961) as well as Lichstenstein’s Image Duplicator(1963) from Uncanny X-Men and Takka Takka (1962), Bratatat! (1963), Whaam!(1963) from All American Men of War. Of course, this was done in such a way that inevitably divorced the appropriated (and often de-paneled) images from the narrative they were supposed to serve. Your work, however, shifts the focus away from what at times can be a condescending fine-art fascination with comic imagery along with the often crude narratives it serves and instead draws attention to the very structure of comics itself—i.e., not its pictorial or narrative content but its formal content.
|Curtis Gannon, Cosmos: The Copernicus/Miller Correlation (2013)
Paper Installation 12 x 6ft diameter (dimensions variable)
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: Of course, from the fact that comic imagery and now comic form should be counted amongst the legitimate subjects for works of fine art it doesn’t follow that comics themselves should be similarly counted amongst the legitimate works of fine art. As an artist who uses comics and comic imagery to create artworks about comics but not themselves comics, where do you stand on the fine-art status of comics (or on the commercial-art/fine-art distinction in general)?
Comics were not initially created as art, but to be inexpensive entertainment, readily consumable and disposable. In a similar way, many objects in museum collections today were originally created to educate, document, or entertain as objects of beauty.
|Curtis Gannon, Closure Construction #5 (2012)
Plexiglass 32 x 41.5 x 2in
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: Do you think comics can be appreciated as fine-art while still being appreciated as comics?
|Curtis Gannon, Closure Grid: Locas Big City (2012)
Collage 32 x 66 inches
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: What if anything do you think would likely have to change for comics to gain admission to the world of fine-art?
|Curtis Gannon, Page Mosaic: Pangea (2011)
Collage 84 x 96 inches
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: What sort of reactions from the fine-art community have there been to your work with respect to comics as its material and subject matter?
|Curtis Gannon, Plot Weave #23 (2012)
Collage 15.75 x 15.75 x 1.75in
AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS: Some folks within the comics community see Lichtenstein in a rather unfavorable light, namely as a fine-art carpetbagger guilty of flagrant theft who enjoyed wealth and fame as a result while the comic artists from whom he stole were largely consigned to obscurity and poverty. Do you see your own work as a species of appropriation and if so to what extent if any do you think appropriation of a comic’s page structure (panelation, guttering, etc.)—rather than it’s pictorial elements—susceptible to similar charges of fine-art carpetbaggery?
|Curtis Gannon, Association Grid #27 (2013)
Collage 20.25 x 12.25 x 1.5in
In this more complex way, I want my work to be a homage to their accomplishments by representing these comics in new ways; hoping to attract non-typical audiences to re-evaluate the original sources. The comics I adopt are not inert documents of the past, but are viable works that are the spring board for new ideas and discoveries. When I give talks about the work, I find myself spending much of my time referencing the original sources and why they are important.
I understand why the comic book community frowns upon artists like Lichtenstein and Warhol. The images they appropriated for a small part of their careers helped to make these artists famous without specific reference to the original creators. But a major point is often over looked by these critics. The work of these and other Pop artists made major strides in establishing comics as a legitimate artistic medium to academia and society as a whole. They helped to raise comics out of the perceived mire of mass media “low culture” to a unique and important form of literature as well as art in their own right.
Curtis Gannon is represented by THE MISSION Chicago | Houston (www.themissionprojects.com) For more information contact Sarah Busch, Director | Houston: (713) 874-1182.