Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Ashbery Dupes!


Here is a promo for an show by John Ashbery, an artist and poet with some academic reputation. Here's a link to see more of his images, and here is another. He apparently blends found material, specifically random art and postcards to create his effects.

Any comics fan would instantly recognize the two figures as Fighting American and The Guardian, both created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. But there's something different about these borrowed images. They're not by Simon and Kirby.

Both are by Jim Steranko.


This piece is titled "Diffusion of Knowledge" and sits our two heroes in front of the Smithsonian Museum. There's a point here so some kind.


This piece too will kindle a memory as it's clearly Stuntman, also created by Simon and Kirby, and also this particular time drawn by Steranko. The piece is titled "Gotcha".


All of these images come from Steranko's History of Comics Volume I, specifically a small area on the back cover. Here's a close look.


And here's the whole cover. Ashbery sure doesn't like to waste material, that's all I'll say. And I find it remarkable that he has seemingly merely by chance borrowed three heroes, all created by the same two classic comics masters. The fact he's used such a narrow patch explains it, as likely Steranko bunched several of the similar S&K creations together.

But there's a lackadaisical quality to Ashbery's work here that undermines its effectiveness I think. Or maybe not. Most folks won't recognize the source material, but they might suspect something about the similar art styles on the two pieces.

Jack Kirby Collage - Fantastic Four #51

Jim Steranko Collage - Strange Tales #168

Given Kirby's and Steranko's own histories with collage, I doubt they'd be miffed by this appropriation of their work, but my fanboy nature yearns that the artist who lifted the stuff might demonstrate some small awareness of its true original context. But then, changing that context is the whole point I guess.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a trio of covers by Simon & Kirby featuring the heroes of the day.




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3 comments:

  1. Whether the Late Simon & Kirby (or still living Steranko) would be miffed or not about such usage is beside the point. This type of "artwork" has been making waves over the past few years, with a number of additional "copiers" intentionally incorporating previously published comic book imagery into collages or other kinds of reproductions AND passing the work off as something new and unique AND of their own creation. It's stealing, period!!

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  2. I personally think collage is a legitimate art form, but there must be significant alteration of the imagery to make it seem like a fresh piece. These Asberry collages are on the edge of that.

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  3. To say that John Ashbery has "some academic reputation" is a severe understatement. He's considered one the finest living American poets. Worth noting, though, that he was 80 YEARS OLD at the time of the exhibition, and quite possibly in his dotage. So I'll give him a pass, but there's nothing remotely good about these collages other than the stolen Steranko artwork.

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