edited by Andrei Molotiu
Does a comic make sense outside of its narrative form? Does it make sense without text to anchor it firmly in a place and time, within a certain story, within a larger universe?
Throwing all such context out the window, Abstract Comics places pieces of art from a multitude of artists in one long sequence that in theory shows how, as the books puts it, they “create potent formal dramas and narrative arcs, bringing the art of comics…the closest that it, or any other visual art, has yet come to the condition of instrumental music.”
The idea of this one hand of the comics medium clapping is constructed by editor Andrei Molotiu, an art professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. Molotiu’s introduction to the book gives us a brief yet authoritative history of artistic movements and shows what led us here, to the brink of abstract comic art. This introduction is the crux of the book, firmly anchoring—with all the requisite audacity it requires, something Molotiu should be greatly admired for—comics art with the works of Pollock and de Kooning. The introduction alone is worth studying and reading over and over; it represents an impressive thesis on the abstract and recognizes its place in comics.
The back of the book includes an extensive contributors list, with information about all the artists who participated in this gorgeous anthology. That’s pretty much all the text you’re going to get, though (which is pretty the point, obviously). And in that respect, Abstract Comics gives you exactly what you put into it. Molotiu has created a fun and accessible anthology here, one that’s smart and well-researched but not in the slightest bit obtuse. You don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate it; you just need an open mind. With that, the reward for Abstract Comics is quite lovely. And quite possibly a good opportunity for you to increase your appreciation for the comics format exponentially.-- John Hogan