Books and CAKE (and new Anya Davidson)

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My CAKE haul (moving left-right, then down and back), conisting of books from: Austin English, Anya Davidson, Mat Brinkman, Michael Deforge x2, Josh Simmons (bathed in light), Patrick Kyle, Leslie Stein, Gengoroh Tagame, Kevin Huizenga x3, Trubble Club, Scott Kroll, Winslow-Yost + Rae-Grant, Chuck Forsman, Eric Taylor, and finally Melinda Tracy Boyce.

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Chicago’s resident alt-comics fest had no shortage of good work, though not necessarily the largest number of surprises. Having attended MoccaFest, TCAF, and CAKE 2013, my current hometown’s show was probably my favorite of the three. Modest, relaxed, and held in a lavish facility, the air was more social than commercial, with ample time and space to actually meet and connect with artists. CAKE’s a show that privileges engaging with others over being the ultimate consumer, and a useful comparison might be shopping at Wal-Mart to going to a corner store. It’s totally possible to attend and converse comfortably with every artist tabling there. Conversations are simply a little more open with less of the pressure of expectation, and a locally focused show that involves fewer struggling to recover travel costs or expecting their proceeds to cover several months’ rent.

Chicago could support a bigger show, I’m sure, but it’s not clear that it needs to. Much about the show proved refreshing, and there was an air of complete substance about it—very little bad work and yet with no air of self-importance. CAKE 2013 presented a relaxed, free environment that anyone could navigate around in, coming and going with ease. The festival might be the most accurate reflection I’ve seen of a medium where what counts for success is extremely unclear, and there seemed to be a comfort with those present with that kind of haziness of expectations.

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As far as the work itself, the book of the show (and I haven’t read them all) looks to be Anya Davidson’s newest and meticulously screen-printed work, The Whole Hole. Printed mostly with single-color pages over black an white, the drawings here are simplified to a way that faintly recalls Otto Soglow and her frequent editor Sammy Harkham, but with a louder slant towards humor and improvisation and a real embrace of crassness. The story’s not lacking in sophistication, though, with themes emerging quite naturally about the treatment of women’s bodies, treated in the best-humored way that you could dream of.

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That’s a nice theme to emerge from an artist with such a lively eye for posture, and there’s much to be said for the care Davidson takes via the steps with which she creates meaning. An appreciation for cartoon language runs through here, with attention to economy and to precise delineation of figures that never lack in energy. All the elements of this work, from the color sensibility to the hatching styles, are in fact charged with energy as much as a taste for variety, indicating an artist with a strong and lustrous vision, and a welcome disinterest in forcing rhetoric. This is a book with a limited run I’m really happy to have come by, and it’s only better to have found it by meeting the artist in person. And the persona conveyed on the page reflects just what came through at the show; this is an artist who takes everything she does, even when it’s a lot of work, with a really keen sense of enjoyment. image

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