KEITH MAYERSON’S AMERICAN DREAM The LA-based artist tells of his upcoming show with Karma, teaching, and Frank Johnson. BY CHRIS BYRNE
Keith Mayerson at Elaine de Kooning House. Photograph by Katherine McMahon.
eith Mayerson has exhibited his paintings and drawings in prominent galleries and museums across the U.S. and abroad. For the past decade, he has been creating a nonlinear narrative of works entitled My American Dream. Mayerson is the co-editor of the forthcoming publication for Fantagraphics, tentatively titled Frank Johnson: Pioneer of American Comics. He is also currently working on a graphic novel about the life of James Dean with same publisher. Chris Byrne (CB): You recently established a new Visual Narrative Art minor at the University of Southern California Roski School of Art and Design... Keith Mayerson (KM): Yes, I’m now a tenured full professor and chair of Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking at the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Before coming here in 2016, I lived in New York City as a professional exhibiting artist teaching fine art at all the top schools (Columbia, Yale, NYU, Brown, and others) while also teaching comics and illustration as the lead comics instructor and “cartooning coordinator” at the
Keith Mayerson, My Prometheus: E de K and her JFK’s, 2019, oil on linen, 82 x 56 in. Photograph by Tom Powel.
School of Visual Arts, which began and is historically known as the best comics school in the country—perhaps the world. I came from Colorado and growing up, my access to art was through comics. I was always the “comics kid” on campus, from kindergarten through my undergraduate days at Brown University, where I wrote and drew the daily comic and did much of the graphic work on campus while also creating paintings and drawings as a studio art and semiotics major. It wasn’t until my first jobs in NYC in the early ’90s, working at great galleries and art magazines, that I realized you can “do this”, be an exhibiting artist, for a living. I went to grad school at the University of California, Irvine, where I realized I could make nonlinear narrative installations of paintings and drawings, making the best of all worlds while keeping true to comics. I also created, along with the writer Dennis Cooper, one of the first graphic novels, Horror Hospital Unplugged, which became, as we had hoped, a “cult classic”, which begat my teaching at SVA. Upon coming to USC, I taught comics and fine art for the first time under the same roof and realized that, with the Lucas Museum