Today Robert Loss discusses Mark Beyer’s recent retrospective exhibition.
The temptation in looking back at this compelling exhibit, which the Urban Arts Space described as “the first in-depth retrospective” of Beyer’s work, is to search for a trajectory, a progression from one aesthetic or subject matter to another concurrent with the artist’s biography or history. Retrospectives encourage this, don’t they? Well, it was there if you wanted it. Following the exhibit’s route, you began in “With Text: 1975-2011,” starting with mainly black-and-white comics, including a wall of original Amy and Jordan comic strips, and proceeding to the commercial art of New Yorker covers and commissioned album art and posters, where words became images themselves, and his animated series The Adventures of Thomas and Nardo, where words were only spoken. You concluded in “Without Text: 1975-2012″ which was largely comprised of silkscreens and reverse paintings on plexiglas, absent of words or motion.
And yet, any argument the show might have made about the progression of Beyer’s work by dividing it into “With Text” and “Without Text” was leveraged by the fact that each section covered Beyer’s entire career. On the other hand, Beyer stopped publishing comics in the late 1990s and has returned to the form, so far as I know, only once.