Pulp Art: Out of the gutter and on the walls
May 12 – July 8, 2017
“Pulp” refers to cheaply produced magazines made from low-grade newsprint. The term comes from the wood pulp used in the paper manufacturing process. Historically, comic books were produced on this pulp newsprint because of the cheap, throwaway nature in which comics were regarded.
The “gutter” is the space between the panels of comics. The physical space itself is quite small, but it is none the less of huge importance, as this is where your imagination is the most active as your mind fills in the blanks of the story as it transitions from one panel to the next.
The power and influence of comics in contemporary culture is undeniable. Comics and cartoons are one of the first forms of visual art created and marketed specifically to children, an introduction to visual art that creates lasting connections that stay with people over the course of their lives. Today’s multi-billion dollar industry of superhero movies, collectable toys, and clothes featuring popular comic characters only serves to illustrate this notion.
Comics have had an enduring role on the American psyche since the mid to late nineteenth century. They really began to take off in the mid 1930s with the introduction of comic books that allowed for longer-arcing story lines by breaking out of the confines of daily newspapers. This advent saw with it the rise of the superhero genre that brought new and inventive ways for audiences to imagine other worlds, and bring powers that were previously relegated to gods to a modern day secular world, to solve our problems and to right wrongs.
Starting in the sixties, comics began finding their way into capital “A” fine art in the Pop Art movement with such notable artists as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Also developing around the same time was a new vein of underground comic books (often referred to as “comix”) that delved into deeper, more adult themes, and opened up more creative possibilities within the medium of paneled or sequential art. Between the work being done by the Pop Artists and the groundwork laid in comix by Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Françoise Mouly, among others, lines began to blur between the popular culture comic styles and high art. The perceived cultural value of comics from disposable, “toilet literature” to something of value took root and continues to grow to this day.
A direct evolutionary line can be traced from early Superman to Stan Lee to Robert Crumb to the artists included in Pulp Art: Out of the gutter and on the walls. The variation of voice and style born from these humble pulp beginnings is truly remarkable. This exhibition explores the enduring influence of an art form created for the masses and celebrates it in the personal, individual manner of each of these artists.
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL (Chicago, IL)
JOEL MCDONALD (Louisville, KY)
ANDREI MOLOTIU (Bloomington, IN)
YOKO MOLOTOV (Louisville, KY)
NIAGARA (Detroit, MI)
ROBERT PRUITT (Houston, TX)
SETH SCANTLEN (Brooklyn, NY)
MALCOLM MOBUTU SMITH (Bloomington, IN)
BRITT SPENCER (Savannah, GA)
FRED STONEHOUSE (Madison, WI)
The Carnegie Center would like to thank Koplin Del Rio Gallery for all their help with this exhibition.