Considering how much I enjoy and respect comic artist Daniel Clowes’ work, how frequently I recommend his graphic novels (of late, the morally flawed tale of modern defeatist Wilson) or comics (find a semi-recent compendium of The Death Ray and eat it), or point with embarrassing, potentially threatening, enthusiasm towards his illustrative commissions for the likes of the New Yorker (and to all of the above, most commonly, to pester people to do the same) – I find it difficult to talk about his work in any aesthetic detail.
Two reasons for this: One, I’m afraid I might be stamped on by his legion of fans who know more and two, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone lucky enough to be discovering him for the first time.
Right now in Oakland, where Mr Clowes currently resides, the first ever survey of his full body of work is on display. The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) has pulled together originals – a rare insight into working as the nature of a comic artist’s work is that it is made to be seen in a published format – with the exhibits ranging from 1989 to 2011; 22 years in which he would break new narrative ground for comics, summoning mordant wit and disaffected cool into characters with realism that are always relevant.
This means, amongst other noteworthy titles, Ghost World, a story and script that Terry Zwigoff went on to direct and Clowes to be Academy Award nominated for. It also means a perfect and unique opportunity for anyone in the vicinity (this means you, America) to just get how great he is so that I don’t have to badly explain.
Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes will be on show until August 12.