Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Word/Image Problem

Since moving to New York, one of my favorite cartooning related events was on a very rainy March 8th at Parsons School for Design, where Ben Katchor organized a symposium called "Rodolphe Topffer and theWord/Image Problem."

Katchor gathered a stellar group of artists and academics to present slides and discussions on visual narrative throughout history. The guest of honor was David Kunzle, biographer of Rodolphe Topffer, considered by many to be the inventor of the comic strip.
(I'm thinking of composing a post that addresses that question. Stay tuned).

For me, the highlight of the day was that I met my lifelong hero, Peter Blegvad. Years before he took up comic strips, Blegvad's songs and their accompanying notes and illustrations shaped my thinking about comics in crucial, fundamental ways. Please excuse my sloppy sketch of the man-- he performed songs accompanying slides of his artwork and I had to put down my pen to marvel at the effect.

Reading down the sketches, we find Steven Guarnaccia, Chair of Parsons' Illustration Department, giving the introduction; Victor Mair, Professor of Chinese Literature, speaking on Indo-Chinese picture recitations; biographer Aimee Brown Price on the unofficial cartoons of painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes; Blegvad; Princeton University's Anne-Marie Bouche on Dialogues of Text andImage in Medieval Art; cartoonist Ben Katchor on Graven Images in the Yiddish Press; Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman in the audience; James Miller and Noah Isenberg of The New School for Social Research in conversation On the Perils of Academic Specialization; David Kunzle on Topffer as Professional Dilettante; and Patricia Mainardi, Professor of Art History at Brooklyn College, delivering a very inspiring presentation on forgotten proto-comic approaches in nineteenth-century book illustration.

Scoff if you wish, but this is my idea of a good time.
(You'll want to click on these three pages to really see them)

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