Literary Downers

Today: Paul Tumey joins us for a thorough look at Art Spiegelman's recent performance piece, WORDLESS!

If you’ve followed Art Spiegelman at all in the last 20 years, you’ve seen his lectures, filled with insight, wit, and lots of visuals projected onto screens. This has all been pretty swell -- but predictable -- stuff. But when have we ever seen Spiegelman take the stage to talk about comics with a giant movie screen and a six-piece jazz combo?

“I wanna talk to you about words and pictures. And pictures without words,” Spiegelman says in WORDLESS!, his new work created with jazz composer/saxophonist Phillip Johnston. In 90 minutes, WORDLESS! explores selected works of H.M. Bateman, Frans Masreel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nückel, Milt Gross, and Si Lewen -- with quick sidetrips into comics by Basil Wolverton, Wilhelm Busch, and several others. In addition, Spiegelman includes pieces of his past work as well as "Shaping Thought," a brand new comics tour de force designed exclusively for the hybrid live music and movie format.

Like the silent comics it presents, WORDLESS! has a lot to say. And much of what is said holds within it the potential to transform. Literature is transformed from prose to visual art. Simultaneously, visual art is transformed into literature. The introduction of old, strange comics to a new audience also creates a transformation around our understanding of the form itself.  In developing this luminous musical art lecture Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston have created yet another transformation: the intimate act of reading comics turned into watching/experiencing comics as part of a group.

And we are very pleased to present an original comic strip by the great Howard Cruse entitled Slang and Profanity Illustrated. I encourage everyone to check out Howard's work, which was and is brave, wise and beautifully drawn.


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