Daniel Clowes' Long Overdue Career Retrospective "Modern Cartoonist" Opens At OMCA This Weekend

Posted by Billyjam, April 12, 2012 09:20pm | Post a Comment
Despite his deep resume and extensive, impressive body of work, revered & highly accomplished Chicago born, Oakland based graphic novelist Daniel Clowes, whose work is defined by its dark humored focus on the underdog, is finally getting the kind of exposure he has long deserved but for some reason eluded - until now.

That successful & prolific career spans two-plus decades in the alternative comic book arts world racking up such accolades as several prestigious Harvey Awards for his pioneering comic Eightball, his work appearing in the New Yorker, a 2011 PEN career achievement award for the darkly fun The Death-Ray (about an orphaned teen named Andy who discovers that, when he smokes cigarettes, he morphs into a superhero with special powers), plus the 2001 Oscar nomination for the film adaptation of his book Ghost World.

Six years ago his Art School Confidential was adapted to film and reportedly a film version of his book Wilson is currently in the works. But it is only now in 2012 that Daniel Clowes is finally getting his due with a large scale retrospective of his life's work at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) that opens this weekend and runs there for four months.

With the exception of a (smaller scale compared to OMCA) solo show that Los Angeles' Richard Heller Gallery hosted for Clowes nine years ago, this OMCA retrospective will be Clowes first large scale, major museum exhibition focusing solely on his art and in great depth. Titled Modern Cartoonist, it opens this Saturday (April 14th) and runs through August 12th and will exhibit one hundred different pieces of the artist's work spanning the past 23 years.

The exhibit coincides with the just published, in high demand book The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist which will be for sale at the OMCA gift store. And after the OMCA exhibit closes it will then travel onto similarly prestigious venues around the country including Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington DC's Corcoran Gallery, and Columbus, Ohio's Wexner Center for the Arts. The Oakland exhibit will also include two special programs on both June 16th and July 27th (scroll down for full details).

Considering that no major museum has done a full retrospective on Clowes' work until now I was curious as to why, so I reached out to OMCA Senior Curator René de Guzman to ask him what's taken this long? "Daniel Clowes has maintained an independence despite being widely acknowledged as a great in his field. He's stayed out of the mainstream art world limelight longer than others at his level of notoriety such as Chris Ware from Chicago and Robert Crumb, among others," replied de Guzman. "Because of his acclaimed screenwriter for movies such as Ghost World and his next film based on his recent graphic novel Wilson to be directed by Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne plus his work in national publications such as New Yorker Magazine and the New York Times, Clowes's impact on culture in general is now being recognized."

So how did the Oakland museum come to the decision to run such a large scale exhibit for four months? "I was first approached by Dan and Susan Miller.  Susan is an independent curator who initiated the project.  We decided it was the right time for a more general consideration of Dan's work that put him in the context of art rather than remain in the comics context," said de Guzman, continuing that, "I thought it was also important to advocate for artists from California who are having a great deal of success and influence around the country and the world.  Note that his work has been translated in 53 different languages and he sells out every book he publishes.  In fact, the book we did in concert with Abrams has already sold out and needs to go into reprint a week before our show even opens!"


Modern Cartoonist opens at the OMCA on Saturday, April 14th and runs through August 12th. The run will include two spacial programs (both included with Museum admission). Saturday June 16th 1pm to 2pm will be "Modern Cartoonist Curators' Tour and Conversation" - an in-gallery talk and tour led by guest curator Susan Miller and OMCA's de Guzman.

And on Friday July 27th from 7pm to 8:30pm will be the panel Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes in the OMCA's James Moore Theater at which Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware will join Susan Miller and OMCA René de Guzman in a panel conversation.

           For more exhibit info, tickets info, and general museum information visit OMCA's website.

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Omca (15), René De Guzman (0), Susan Miller (1), Daniel Clowes (9), Oakland Museum Of California (8)