Now at CAM: Drawing the Sword

Posted by on January 20th, 2010 at 10:29 AM

You know what this blog would be great for?  Pimping Cartoon Art Museum events!

I’ve been a volunteer at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco for–sheesh–ten years now, and I’m married to the curator.  In my world, there is no life without CAM.  I watch the shows go up, I work the front desk at the receptions, I watch Andrew paint the walls again.  Sometimes I write wall text.  The Cartoon Art Museum, like MoCCA in New York and the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh and the Cartoon Research Library at Ohio State, is an invaluable resource for anyone with even a casual interest in comics.  The staff and board try to cover a wide swath of comic and cartoon art, with the hope that at any given time the galleries will have something for everyone.

So the newest exhibit is Drawing the Sword: Samurai in Manga and Anime, curated by Julian Bermudez.  More anime than manga, really, and the show also includes ukiyo-e prints, movie stills, and toys.  There’s some neat production art from Gundam, Bleach, Samurai Champloo (the fantastic art design in that series shows in the animation drawings), and Afro Samurai.  Afro Samurai has an odd history, incidentally.  It started as a doujinshi, or self-published manga, and then the anime attracted the attention of Samuel L. Jackson and became a Japanese-American co-production with a hip-hop soundtrack by that guy from the Wu-Tang Clan.  The Wu-Tang clan always reminds me of Jason Shiga’s early comic Bus Stop, in which the Asian-American protagonist is excited by the Wu-Tang Clan because he thinks they’re a Chinese rap group.  But I’m a giant comic nerd and I’m getting off track.

Lately the museum has been trying to organize more manga- and anime-themed shows, which can be tough because it usually means dealing with Japanese publishers and studios and shipping art overseas.  There’s at least one manga show in the very early stages of planning that will be very cool if it comes together.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Meanwhile, the museum’s latest Small Press Spotlight, featuring local artist Andy Ristaino, recently went up. Ristaino is a great draftsman with an arresting pop-art style, and he’s got a new book coming out from Slave Labor this year, so that’s all good. Also up on the walls: “Spain Rodriguez: Rebel in Ink,” the Cartoon Art Museum show with the most Screw covers (take that, SFMOMA!), and “Monsters of Webcomics,” hopefully the first in a series of webcomics spotlight shows.  And, for just a few days more, there are two dioramas from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in the animation gallery.  Those things are huge and heavy, so yinz’d better appreciate them.

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