Emily Holton’s satiric Karl Lagerfeld series, part of Strip Stories, hits its mark.
STRIP STORIES at Board of Directors (1080 Queen West), to August 23. 416-993-6510. Rating: NNNN
The old-fashioned skills of drawing and visual storytelling, in affordable books that reach a wide audience, allow graphic novelists to operate in a zone that's refreshingly independent of the art world.
Board of Directors, Katharine Mulherin and Erin Stump's new collaborative curatorial project, presents Strip Stories in conjunction with the Doug Wright Awards (named for the newspaper cartoonist of Doug Wright's Family fame, represented by two drawings in the show), which recognize English Canadian achievement in the field.
Ho Che Anderson's graphically innovative books on black life and history should be better known here in his hometown. He's on this year's judging panel and contributes a series of masterful drawings on the civil rights movement from Freedom Dreams. Panels from Chester Brown's Louis Riel, part of underground comics' 90s expansion from confessional subjects, dramatize Canadian history.
Drawings of a rural hockey game from Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire (winner of the emerging talent award) reveal blue-pencil preliminary sketches and have pleasantly handwritten text. And sardonic strips by emerging talent finalists Jason Keiffer, Nick Maandag and Ethan Rilly comment on artistic and working-class life.
Pigskin Peters Award (for experimental work) finalist Emily Holton's loosely rendered adventures of Karl Lagerfeld in a variety of prosaic or ridiculous situations offer dead-on satire, and John Martz's wall of cartoon interpretations of photos from an imaginary 1968 high school yearbook verges on a conceptual project.
Branching out from the book format, Ray Fenwick makes delightful one-off fine-line image-and-text works on cloth book covers, like The Five Oracles Of Gossip, which include a mushroom growing on a cactus that "when ingested induces visions of famous people who are either too fat or too skinny."
For the uninitiated, the show serves as a tantalizing intro to the medium, and fans will appreciate the insight these original drawings give into the artists' corrections and working processes.