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Comics exhibit opens in the IMU

BY JULIA JESSEN | SEPTEMBER 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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As three University of Iowa professors shared their lunch break, discussing a shared love of comics and graphic novels spiraled into creating a slew of events celebrating the comic as an art form.
Graphic Language: The Arts and Literature of Comics is one of the events they created. The art exhibition will open with a donor preview at 4 p.m. Friday in ROOM NUMBER IMU (North Room).

The exhibit will then première for the public on Saturday in the IMU Black Box Theater, and there will be a opening reception at 4 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Black Box Theater. Admission is free.

Rachel Williams, a UI associate professor of art and gender, women's and sexuality studies, with Ana Merino, a UI associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, and Corey Creekmur, a UI associate professor of English and cinema/comparative literature, curated the exhibition. All three had taught classes on comics in the past that were extremely popular, so they wanted to build an exhibition to show community support for the art.

"We knew that if we could generate a forum on campus in which people who thought of comics seriously could come together, we'd have a big response," Williams said.

Originally, the professors planned to host a symposium in which comics creators and scholars could come together to discuss the genre. But as they began working, they saw a need to highlight the difference between the final print version of comics and the artist's original work. They thought it would be interesting to use a museum setting to show the difference between the original and final products.

The exhibition will feature work from many genres of comics, including pieces from famous comics creators such as Winsor McCay and Steve Ditko, contemporary pieces, and historic prints from the UI Museum of Art, including works by Goya and Picasso.

"At first glance, people will say, 'That's not comics,' but we found things where they may be using language with images or be using panels," Creekmur said. "So we were able to draw on the museum's collection a bit, too."

These comics lovers wish to convey the idea that the comics and graphic novels are a legitimate form of art and literature.

"What we want to express to the intellectual community is that comic books and graphic novels are part of the intellectual experience and the cultural experience of many countries, many cultures, including this culture," said Merino, who contributed 33 pieces to the exhibition from her husband's extensive collection. "And we want to bring that diversity, that dimension to a space that is keen on the literary experience."

The group said the exhibition will help erase the stereotype that all comics deal solely with superheroes, or, as Williams said, "anatomically ambitious men."

Williams, Merino, and Creekmur said they look forward to people leaving the exhibition with a new understanding of comics, and they hope viewers will be curious enough to go to a bookstore and explore for themselves.

"I do hope that those who are sort of bemused at the whole idea of comics in an art museum will recognize that this is legitimate, interesting, creative work," Creekmur said.


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