Canadian artist Curtis Gannon grew up in a small town reading comics; as a child, he would go searching for comics in garage sales and even, he states, thought about becoming a comic book artist himself. He is drawn to the colors, simplicity of line, limited color palette, and, particularly, the innocence of the earlier comics of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, what is called the Golden Age of comic book printing. Gannon explains, “there is something about the comics from that day and age…you always new the good guy was going to win, no one ever really got killed, and there was no cursing. [Comic books] represent a modern mythology that brings larger than life subject matter into the predictability of our everyday life.”
In graduate school, after years of making paintings about comics, Gannon found himself unsatisfied with painting. It was at this juncture that he decided to use comic books as his primary media in order to directly address his concerns about the functionality of comic books.
“By using actual comics to make the pieces, I am able to deconstruct the medium to talk about itself,” Gannon states, “in the process, these pieces still reflect all of the characteristic elements that I love about American action comics: color, movement, dialogue, dramatic story lines, the media, and pop entertainment.”
Gannon is primarily interested in the comic book as a platform for communication, how time an space are organized in a sequential format to lead the reader from page to page. For him, it is not about a specific persona or story, but about the general character of the hero or sidekick and the archetypical plot line of the comic book.
In his Closure and Association Grid series, Gannon cuts out the center of each frame, removing the content and leaving the viewer with the raw elements that make up a comic book sequence: bright primary colors, hints of action, broken dialogue balloons, and the white dividing lines and gutters.
What amounts to the bones of the comic book are then layered and mounted on translucent Plexiglas, resulting in geometric patterns that seem to float on the wall. Although the pieces recall the essence of comic books, they are dissociated from their original context; we can no longer follow the action from frame to frame, and are left with a complex layering of visual information that neither moves back or forward. “In comics, it’s all still moments with time in between, and the gutters are a very big element in my work. The white lines that separate the panels on a page and from one panel to another, they can be the time of a breadth or they could be a million years…that sense of a perpetual time machine, almost with limitless possibilities between panels, is something that is very attractive to me.”
Gannon’s Plot Weave series, on the other hand, seem to consolidate and, as the title implies, interweave story lines into an action packed, yet indiscernible, narrative. Each Plot Weave is composed of strips cut out from the early cover and splash pages of comic books. These pages were meant to be attractive, and were usually dramatic, beautifully drawn, and full of color. As Gannon explains, “the cover pages were little teases that were meant to make you want to turn that first page.” For the artist, these pieces, evoke childhood memories of simple craft paper projects – an obvious nostalgia that centers around a lifelong interest.
Curtis Gannon graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, while simultaneously working for the Blaffer Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He later received a master’s degree in painting from San Diego State University. Gannon’s works have been in numerous exhibits in the United States, including the Lawndale Art Center, Sicardi Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as Marion Gallery in Panama.Written by Laura Rossi