Elicia MacKenzie

KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art

Dates and Venue 17 May - 7 September 2008; Daily 10am - 5:30pm, Tuesday and Thursday until 9pm | Vancouver Art Gallery

Reviewers Ed Farolan & John Jane

"Krazy! The Delirious World Of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art" is the first exhibition of its kind in Vancouver, offering unique insights into the world of comics, animated cartoons, anime, manga, graphic novels, computer/video games and visual art. Spanning a century of art and with examples of original sketches, notes, three-dimensional models and published works, KRAZY! gives us a historical tour of cartoonists past and present.

The exhibit features George Herriman's "Krazy Kat", Sunday column comics I still remember reading when I was a child in the US in the 50s. I look at it now and see why it was successful. The graphics and narrative are quite attractive for a child. Other than this syndicated comics column, I discovered a plethora of comics writers I have never even read, perhaps because they didn't appear in the Sunday papers, such as Jerry Moriarty's "Jack Survives", cartoon characters full of physical energy; and the ever popular Harvey Kurtzman, not very popular with his "Corpse on the Imjin", but notoriously famous with his MAD comic books. His art is well-constructed and he is well-known for his "pure cartooning".

Cartoonist Justin Green was considered a rebel as many were in the 70s with his "underground comics" whose themes were profane and blasphemous. In his "Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary", he makes fun of Catholicism, showing in one sequence, Binky holding the breasts of a woman who turns out to be the Virgin Mary. He also has Binky Brown naked and masturbating. I found this type of cartooning to be in poor taste.

Walking further down on the first floor, I noticed a whole section dedicated to MANGA, by Japanese cartoonists who, right after the second world war, started depicting their heroes as the blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian, while the villains were Asian-looking characters. I think that this might have been the brainwashing of American culture during the post-war occupation.

An interesting bonus to coming to VAG and paying the entrance fee of $31 is Zhang Huan's exhibit, "Altered States", on the third floor, encompassing major works produced by this avant-garde artist, over the past 15 years in Beijing, New York and Shanghai. Zhang Huan is best known for his early body-based performances, both controversial and poetic, most of which involve physical endurance. In his own words, he says of his art: "The body is my most basic language."

He moved to New York in 1998 and established himself as one of the most important and widely recognized expatriate Chinese artists. More recently, Zhang returned to China and founded a studio in Shanghai, where he has expanded his medium.

The exhibition includes more than fifty works of photography, sculpture and painting, and is indeed worth perusing. EF

Okay, I admit it! The last place I’m ever likely to visit on a pleasant, warm sunny day is the art gallery. So, on the first rainy day in weeks, I headed for the Vancouver Art Gallery, primarily to see the KRAZY! exhibition, or, to give the show its official title: KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art.

The show provides V.A.G. patrons with a unique perspective into the methods and techniques of some of the best (and perhaps some of the worst) graphic novelists in the publishing business.

One of the most interesting exhibits is "Building Stories," a recent graphic novel by Chicago-based cartoonist Chris Ware (Franklin Christenson Ware). The story follows the tenants of an apartment building. Each page is a complete story, as readers look into the building through open windows and partially removed walls.

Ware’s precise, geometrical drawings appear to be computer-generated, but in fact he works with regular drawing tools such as pencil and paper, scale-rulers and T-squares.

Of special interest to followers of the misadventures of Marlys and Maybonne in one of the Georgia Straight’s weekly comic strips, “Ernie Pook’s Comeek” is Lynda Barry’s stories are, of course humourous, but delivered with serious undertones that depict life as typically discordant, yet occasionally providing moments of joy.

With two entire floors of exhibits, there is plenty to see; including Pixar’s 1995 film “Toy Story” complete with John Lasseter’s story-boards. The exhibition runs until 7th September, but you don’t need to wait for the next rainy day to attend. You would be “Krazy” to miss it. JJ

© 2008 reviewVancouver