of toothpaste tubes are in vogue it gets a hundred guys painting paintings of toothpaste tubes. That’s why guys like you and me are real outlaws in the art world! We don’t fit in any of their fucking categories! Van Gogh was an outlaw! Picasso, all those fucking guys! When Dan Pussey asks Slugger Onions why he paints those large formats instead of working as a professional cartoonist, his enlightening is: “Because doing it this way is a fucking comment on society and shit like that. It’s as if it changed in into real art! Dazzled by Dan Pussey’s authenticity, since they view him as “the real thing”, the artist and his dealer don’t allow the hapless Dan to go home empty-handed. They ask him to bring his own stuff to the gallery within a week, so a sample can be prepared. A week later Pussey shows up with a pile of selected panels from his cartoon work, nicely framed. But a jug of cold water is memorably poured on his hopes by the gallery owner. “Comics? For God sake, kid, that’s yesterday’s news! We are very busy working now on a big show of art by serial killers. Call me when you’ve murdered somebody!· Daniel Clowes’ story works like a perfect moral tale about the customary relations between Art with a capital “A” and that art that shuts itself in the cell (not always padded) of the cartoon frame. The Artist looks upon the artist (who, if he is lucky, is paid as an artisan), with the paternalism of the missionary who had just discovered a tribe of pygmies with an unusual skill in making miniature handicrafts. And also with the lust of the vampire looking at the next neck in which he will sink his teeth. The change of the scale of the cartoon from the panel to the canvas has an explanation that might be called biological: the artists needs a magnifying lens to decipher that miniatures that his cyclopean eye could otherwise never appreciate in all its subtlety. For this reason (and a few others) it is so odd to encounter an artist like Óscar Seco –in fact a mutant who transforms himself from one artist into another, several times in succession, in the course of making single work; or, in other words, someone able to move constantly in two directions at once in that stratified High&Low universe that Art Spiegelman spoke about.
without a hint of pretentiousness. In his painting, the poster art of both fascists and republicans, and the sepia hues of the photographs of the period join a polymorphic orgy with the Lysergic-Cubist drawings of Jack Kirby, Alex Ross’s super-heroic paintbrush, and the radioactive Japanese monsters that emerge from the post-Nagasaki collective imagination. Óscar Seco knows that, in a profound sense, we are on the verge of the Apocalypse. That is why the Japanese who flee before Godzilla, the fallen on the Spanish Civil War, and even Superman himself, whose fulltime job is precisely to prevent, on a day-in-day-out basis, the end of the world, are our contemporaries, our mirror. In Seco’s hands, the rhetoric of the comic book story, “B” genre films, and propaganda are submerged in an ambiguous territory: the land of the persistent nightmare, the dream space where dogs operate like stalactites and organic shapes and are extended like labyrinths. What the artist does is not simply to recover some features of B-films, but rather to unveil their freight of as valid as any other instrument for helping us to understand ourselves.
Spain is Different In Óscar Seco’s latest work, the Spanish Civil War (i.e. the “founding myth” of our modernity) is subjected to a particular “nerd” reading: in a spectacular scale model, the Spanish Republican Millennium Falcon lies on a battlefield where the Incredible Hulk, at the service of the nationalist army, pulverises several Red soldiers. One of the latter, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, is thinking that “There’s no place like home”. To his chagrin, he is in a territory in which History was inscribed, rewritten by someone who loves the comic book
I need a new job, 2002. Private Collection
DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 39
Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006