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A Ware Ness 

"Sequential artist" Chris Ware is a smart man with a strange vision

Wednesday, Jun 9 2004
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Chris Ware is a smart man with a strange vision: In the intricate worlds he creates in his graphic novels (that's "comic books" to you ignoramuses), fabulous architectural devices and ornate, old-fashioned frames dwarf tiny characters constantly beset by tragedy, in knowingly rendered sequences. Ware is best known for the delightful and disturbing Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, an epic, generation-spanning saga produced in hyperactively detailed publications that include cut-out, fold-'em toys: His Acme Novelty Library series gets as much critical praise for its meticulous book art as for its compelling stories.

Ware's most recent project is acting as guest editor for the current issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, the Dave Eggers-fueled magazine-cum-hardback, which is exciting news for us comics geeks, er, graphic novel enthusiasts. It means that the journal is packed not only with Ware wares, but also with treats from his pals, artists like Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Julie Doucet, and Ben Katchor.

Even better news: The original artwork from this endeavor is part of "Our Insular Puerile World," an exhibit at the Jack Hanley Gallery, whose eponymous proprietor raved in recent phone interview: "I'm a big fan of Chris Ware. He's brilliant. I don't say that about very many ... wait, I don't say that about anyone else. He's just brilliant." Even so, the mainstream art world may not be ready for Ware and his contemporaries. "The biggest misconception about this kind of art," Hanley explains, "is that it's the funny pages, but it's not 'comic' -- [Ware] uses this form to write sort of existential stories. I don't know if it's so serious you need dramatic background music, but ...." Hanley says he's even been chastised by other curators for choosing to show what's known as "sequential art," and mentions other forms that were once poo-poohed (such as photography). "It's like even if you show a wide range of experimental stuff, you're not supposed to show this."

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Hiya Swanhuyser

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