THE PEANUT GALLERY: The Genius of a Black Panel

I just posted the below here on The Comics Journal Message Board.

T. Hodler on the Comics Comics blog argues that whoever did the first all-black panel in comics was a genius.

No, I don’t think he is kidding.

I have long found black paintings to be a perfect litmus test. If someone thinks an all-black painting is a work of genius, or even worth more than a second’s consideration, I can’t take anything they say seriously.

Maybe it is a problem with me.

I like some “fine art,” but the vast majority of post-Duchamp art seems like the Emperor’s New Clothes to me. Duchamp put a urinal in an art gallery… the major point being, in my view, “look what these schmucks think is great art!” His imitators have been doing the same schtick ever since, but they don’t get the joke. Mostly “fine art” appears to me to be designed as some kind of arcane currency for the exceedingly wealthy and gullible. A hoax that neither the perpetrators or the victims are aware of.

Comics, until recently, has avoided this kind of cluelessness for the most part, thanks to being considered by the fine art world to be beneath notice. With the exception of the pathetic swipes of Lichtenstein, comics were ignored by museums and galleries for the most part. This is no longer the case, obviously.

Comics have their flaws, sure, but they have generally been produced by artists with an interesting and personal view of the world… which is why comics have remained a popular and vital artform since their inception. The majority of “fine art,” as I see it, is a strange masturbatory exercise of interest primarily to a shinking “intellectual” elite. Since mainstream “fine art” is so insular and boring, it is only natural that they are now attempting to claim comics as part of their morass.

As with the black painting, the black panel apparently also serves as a litmus test.

Sure, a black panel is a different story than a black painting… it is in the context of a larger comic strip it can be quite effective in storytelling, right?

It is telling, I think, that Mr. Hodler declares that the first black panel was an act of genius, without any consideration to the context a black panel might be in. He does not know where the first black panel appeared… but wherever it did, it was genius! Sure, a black panel can be an effective part of a comic, but Mr. Hodler doesn’t care about the context… he just cares that the ink is India.

Which is pretty funny, really. It’s right out of Art School Confidential.

The Comics Comics blog reads to me more like unintentional self-satire every day. The Dark Vision of… Carl Barks? 80% of alternative comics are unreadable? And now black panels are genius! These guys are on a roll!

One thought on “THE PEANUT GALLERY: The Genius of a Black Panel

  1. Yeah, I used to consider myself a minimalist until I learned that minimalism means art like Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square.

    I’m all for trying to break a medium. I’m all for stripping a work of art to its barest essentials or pushing the limits of what art can do. But none of this should come at the expense of coherence.

    To me a true genius is someone who can break all the rules and still make a coherent point.

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