by Dan Nadel
Friday, November 12, 2010
In fact I am still recovering from last weekend’s NY Art Book Fair, which ran me more ragged than any fair before it. So this will be short. Never have I seen such voracious enthusiasm for books and printed stuff. I sold like half a dozen rolls of King Terry toilet paper! Who does that?! I dunno. And I sold a TON of Moebius books. Not to worry, Brian, I sold tons of If ‘n Oof, too. But Moebius…
I am still watching, with a mix of delight and horror, the evolving documentation of the Moebius retrospective currently on view in Paris.
I daily check this site for an updated sketchbook drawing. I am rarely disappointed. Then I google the exhibition and am sometimes happy to find a site like this one. It would seem there are paintings on display from Moebius’s 1975 designs for Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune film adaptation.
But really I’m constantly trying to sort out why I keep coming round to the guy. It’s something like this: Moebius’s drawings, at their best, do things in concert that seem nearly impossible. Or rather, they bring together elements of visual culture that usually are done well in isolation by a single master. Moebius synthesized a lot in his work. Ok, that’s not so descriptive. Let’s say this: At its best, a Moebius drawing precisely describes a form while intimately evoking its metaphysical substance by the quality of the pen (or as often the case now, stylus) line. These forms are also brilliant designs. I think it’s easy to forget that part of the appeal here is that it’s as though this draftsman has a designer working for him. But in fact they are one in the same, which lends the images an uncanny feeling: I frequently feel as though I’m actually peering into a place of recognizable textures and forms, but utterly foreign objects and normative atmospheric rules.
Let’s take another tack: I’ve been listening lately to the Keith Richards autobiography, which is actually more horrifying than it is entertaining, much like Stanley Booth’s Stones book, Sympathy for the Devil. You just can’t quite believe what a ruthless motherfucker this guy is, and how much human carnage he left behind. I mean, plenty of artists are ruthless, but this guy really goes all the way. Anyhow, the point is, Richards spends a lot of time writing about searching for chord sequences and tunings that turn the familiar inside out; the prolific process involved in his “search” reminds me of Moebius’s drawings, which seek some unknown territory yet are built on tradition. And the immediate linear tradition for the Moebius persona work (aside from the Euro pop-psych of Guy Peellaert and others) is Milton Glaser and Peter Max, of course. I can find the line of Moebius (as opposed to Jean-Giraud) in Glaser’s drawings of the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, as here:
And the sense of space and open, wide volumes in Peter Max, even in this groovy jigsaw puzzle:
But Moebius, of course is at his best in narrative, not as much still imagery, and the above artists are quite the opposite. One thing I’ve been doing lately is reading The Airtight Garage as it was initially serialized in English in Heavy Metal. It’s black and white and just a few pages at a clip. It makes a helluva lot more sense, first as a work meant to be experienced only in black line (all that detail and those vistas are obscured by the later colorization) and also as an episodic trip. Piecing together the grand narrative isn’t going to get you that far: but one shot at a time: that’ll get you someplace, man. Let’s say this: Richards writes about wearing his own persona, about immersing himself in “himself” in order to get in touch with his inner Chuck Berry, or whatever touchstone he needs to get loose. And I have a similar feeling about Moebius — slipping into a pseudonym, trying on this contour line, and looking for the form on the page, but with a sure foundation of both realism and pop formalism. And it comes across as personal and unforced. I hope we get to see it again over here, someday, in some form.
EDIT: I somehow missed this Wall Street Journal profile, which has some very good bits.