by Natasha Walter
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA), housed in Open Book literary center, recently debuted Spot On, an exhibition dedicated to the grassroots art of zines and the many styles of graphic novels. Utilizing distinctive pin-board like displays and featuring a wide variety of topics from personal narrative to social commentary, Spot On offers ideas to contemplate, zines to interact with and acclaimed graphic novels to gawk at.
Spot On defines a zine as "An inexpensively produced, self-published
work consisting of written and/or graphic elements." Often chastising society's
standards, many of these radical publications are clandestinely reproduced on
office photocopiers. Such secrecy, coupled with a passion to disseminate subversive
ideas and personal experiences, charges these independent rag-tag productions
with a spark of charisma.
such work by Emily Shyder is simply called "At the Office." Shyder
uses frustrating run-ins with her boss as fodder for the zine. She recounts
confrontations like the time she rode her bike to work and her boss snootily
scoffed at her preferred mode of transportation. Composing such a zine not only
seems to purge Shyder of the tension that so often surrounds working life, but
also serves as a commentary on the almost pathological adherence to the status
quo commonly found in 9 to 5 America.
Many people will recognize the graphic novel Manga, a genre that originated
in Japan and was popularized in the West along with its counterpart in film,
Anime. But what some people might not know is how far its scope reaches. Since
graphic novels have been traditionally targeted at teenage boys, Manga's breadth
represents a much needed voice for many marginalized fans, most notably the
female fans who've embraced the genre as much as it’s embraced them.
Another delight of this show is the striking quality of local artists, including
Road Kill Bill penman (and former Pulse cartoon contributer) Ken Avidor. Viewers
can enjoy the homegrown creative vigor evident in his intricate pen-and-ink
sketches. If this local work whets your appetite, move on to internationally
renowned publications such as Maus, a complex visual tale of the Holocaust,
or various issues of the Montreal-based Drawn and Quarterly, one of the largest
independent publishers of graphic novels.
Not only is there a wealth of art to look at, but there is also a spate to interact
with. The children's worktable includes pencils and paper for creative experimentation,
and MCBA provides a worksheet that outlines four easy steps for drawing those
distinctive Manga eyes. For the rest of us, there's a reading table scattered
with zines of all kinds, from the most low budget operation to more elaborate
Spot On provides much to contemplate and a feast of images to devour.
Separated by category, the show is easy to navigate, making it simple to satisfy
your particular interests, be they gender and sexuality or simply personal storytelling.
Spot On: The Art of Zines & Graphic Novels runs through June 25 at
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Mpls.
612-215-2520. Gallery hours are Tue. 10 a.m.–9 p.m. & Wed.–Sat.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Sundays & Mondays.