“I have this one focus in my life, which is that this world isn’t real. There are much more interesting right behind it or in it and sometimes you can glimpse them. Those are the most interesting things. That’s what my work has always been about.”
The great cartoonist Jim Woodring joins the show to talk about comics, surrealism, Vedanta, the principle of fluorescence, and why he may be the reincarnation of Herbert E. Crowley! While he was in town for his first solo gallery show, Jim and I met up to talk about his conception of the universe, how his FRANK comics have and haven’t evolved in 20+ years, how art can convey the existence of something it can’t show, why it’s easier to express the grotesque than the beautiful, why younger cartoonists may be lacking the bitter, competitive drive of past generations, and why I think the Prado is a second-rate museum! Give it a listen!
“I always felt in my post-adolescence that, as soon as I figured out how to say what I wanted to say, there would be some people who would respond to it. I never doubted that people would find the work interesting if I could only produce it properly.”
Bonus: I’ve got BIG NEWS about booking an upcoming guest! It’s in the intro.
About our Guest
Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and enjoyed a childhood made lively by an assortment of mental and psychological quirks including paroniria, paranoia, paracusia, apparitions, hallucinations and other species of psychological and neurological malfunction among the snakes and tarantulas of the San Gabriel mountains.
He eventually grew up to be an inquisitive bearlike man who has enjoyed three exciting careers: garbage collector, merry-go-round-operator and cartoonist. A self-taught artist, his first published works documented the disorienting hell of his salad days in an “illustrated autojournal” called JIM. This work was published by Fantagraphics Books and was recently collected in a single edition called JIM.
He is best known for his wordless comics series depicting the follies of his character Frank, a generic cartoon anthropomorph whose adventures careen wildly from sweet to appalling. A decade’s worth of these stories was collected in The Frank Book in 2004. The 2010 Frank story Weathercraft won The Stranger’s Genius Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for that year. Woodring has published two more FRANK books, Congress of the Animals, and Fran.
Woodring is also known for his anecdotal charcoal drawings (a selection of which was collected in Seeing Things in 2005), and the sculptures, vinyl figures, fabrics and gallery installations that have been made from his designs. His multimedia collaborations with the musician Bill Frisell won them a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. He lives in Seattle with his family and residual phenomena.
Credits: This episode’s music is Forest Veil by Lisa Gerrard. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Woodring by me, photo of art by Jim Woodring.
“I’ve read enough Roland Barthes and Foucault to know it’s all fiction, man.”
Richard Gehr’s new book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists (Amazon/New Harvest), profiles a dozen New Yorker cartoonists. We talk about the genesis of that project, lament the dearth of cartooning in print and online, bond over Abe Vigoda, and ponder why it is that so many New Yorker cartoonists had teachers or educators for parents. We also get into Richard’s history in the arts-journalism racket, the joys of Robert Walser, his time in the Boy Scouts with Matt Groening, how he built a career out of his oddball enthusiasms, and the most mind-blowing “Which celebrity did you totally melt down around?” story in the history of this podcast. (Seriously.) Give it a listen!
“I love New Yorker cartoons, but they might be the whitest form of art ever conceived.”
About our Guest
Richard Gehr has been writing about music, culture, and travel for quite a while. He has been an editor for the Los Angeles Reader, Spin, and Sonicnet/MTV Interactive. He currently writes for Rolling Stone, Spin, The Village Voice, Relix, AARP: The Magazine, and other publications. He was a senior writer for the book Alt. Culture: An A-To-Z Guide to the ’90S – Underground, Online, and Over-The-Counter and co-authored The Phish Book with the Vermont quartet. His new book is I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists. He resides in the Brooklyn arrondissement.
Credits: This episode’s music is Homesickness by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou (because I’m on the road for a week). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gehr’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on the same setup in a hotel room in San Diego, when my voice was shot from a three-day podcast-athon in Los Angeles. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Gehr by me.
When I was a small press book publisher, I was put on the Comp list at Bookforum. Despite not having published a book since 2003 and closing down the company in 2004, I’ve remained on the freebie list. The new issue arrived last week, on the heels of my 0-fer festival (here, here and here).
So, of the 60+ books that got reviewed in this ish, how many of them was I interested in reading about, and possibly buying?
Two: The Philip Johnson Tapes: Interviews by Robert A.M. Stern and Herbie Archives. (Curiously, Dan Nadel’s review of Herbie â€” a comic book about a fat guy who gets superpowers from enchanted lollipops â€” was placed in the nonfiction section of the table of contents.)
I still need to check out William Vollmann’s essay on why Nazi photography is creepy. Or maybe I don’t. And Tom Vanderbilt’s review of books on how the suburbs and the internet are alienating or fragmenting or something seems pretty blatherous. I did have high hopes for this Richard Price interview, but then I discovered that it was a Richard Prince interview.
I’ve been going on lately about my inability to read contemporary books, but I realized that I should check to make sure I’m not full of crap. To that end, I checked through the last 3 years of my list of All The Books I’ve Read, sorted by date of publication, and realized that I am full of crap! Here’s a PDF of 2006-2008, each year sorted by book-date.
I decided to include all books from that year and the previous one as “brand spankin’ new,” arbitrary as that seems.
- 2006: 5 new books (2 novels), 11 overall published this decade, 35 overall
- 2007: 7 new (4 novels & 1 play), 14 from this decade, 31 overall
- 2008: 8 new (6 novels), 13 from this decade, 29 overall
So I guess I have been more susceptible to book-hype lately! Or there were a bunch of good books out last year. Still, maybe I should follow the suggestion of one of my newer readers (hey, Zeke!) and put a ban on any books that are fewer than 3 years old.