Daniel Clowes‘ comic books bypass any spandexed cliches associated with the graphic novel, narrating the tales of cynical anti-heroes and the bizarre small towns they find themselves in. With his clean illustration style, Clowes takes a cinematic approach to his work, switching between colors and styles to convey the mood shifts and plot twists. Though originally from Chicago, Clowes is a longtime Oakland resident who has become something of a regional figure. The Oakland Museum of California recently opened the new show “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes,” a retrospective honoring Clowes’ vast body of work, from his first comic books in the late ’80s to his recent covers for the New Yorker.
From the best friend duo, Enid and Rebecca, from Ghost World, to Andy from his latest graphic novel The Death-Ray, Clowes’ characters test the bounds of social decorum. They take the reader into the uncomfortable back hallways of the mind, showing them the inappropriate sexual fantasies or irrational outbursts that comprise the ugly side of humankind. “Anything that makes me uncomfortable, that’s the direction I want to go in rather than avoid,” said Clowes at the preview of the exhibit. In “Modern Cartoonist,” we are able to see the evolution of this influential artist, author and thinker. Take a look at photos from the show by Ken Harman. — Nastia Voynovskaya