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SS Fs] BLACKNESS IN SEGUENTIAL ART MAY T1-JUME 30, 2013 ARTGPACE 50 ORANGE STREET NEW HAVEN, CT OGS1O CELLULOID MASKS & RETRACTABLE SKINS TRANSFORMING THE SCALES OF BLACKNESS IN SEQUENTIAL ART “Toonskin is a multi-modal exhibition that gathers moving image media, ilustrations, painting, sculpture, and mixed-me- ia installations to reconfigure the scales of sequential at. Curator and artist Kenya (Robinson) displays pieces by eighteen artists that peel back the celluloid masks of sequen: tial art to reveal multilayered and portable skins" af identity, physicality, and materiality. In its simplest defnition, sequen: tial art refers to a broad range of visual images in sequence. Black images in sequential art, from silent film, animation shorts, comic strips, and gags—to comic books, graphic novels, video games, avatars, and anime—remainacontested terrain of representation and a vital site of production. Itis this very idea, that is Blackness as an idea and asa cultural sign of achievement, appropriation, and meaning, which permeates the spatio-temporal installations of Toonskin, “Toonskin artists assert sequential art as a sophisticated yet playful creative form. The post-modern impulse of ‘Toonskin draws upon the history of sequential art while taking the field in innovative directions. Gaming, webcam madeling, oifs mobile applications, and digital comics constitute the future of sequential art—taking the form outside the hands of narrowly trained experts and placing it into the hands of community and experimental artists and fans. Artists repre- sented in the exhibition engage with the idea of a Black aesthetic that does not suggest a break with historical forma: tions as much as it calls inte question antiquated ways of seeing and understanding race, gender, class, and sexualities. In other words, problematic visual seripts of Blackness can, when artfully reconfigured, create new meanings and new ways of thinking. | name this process the affective progression of Blackness, ar the emotional and embodied ways artists layer images and visually narrate meaning ta make sequential art anew, The multiple forms and influences of the Black image in sequential art derive from vaudeville (eg. the derisory minstrel stage), trickster folktales, popular literature, and cinema. In Hollywood animation popular and seeminaly innocuous characters such as Mickey Mouse (1928), Betty Boop Deborah Elizabeth Whaley Department of American Studies and Program ia “iflean Amarin Steer, University of Iowa (1930), and Bugs Bunny (1940) relied on veiled racial markers to recteate the minstrazed fantasies made popular in vaudeville’. Atthesame time, these productions would ladge and dislodge identity masks of race (Bugs Bunn; transgress sexual taboos. gender constructions, and depict cross-racal site (BettyB09p); and appropriate the cunning and comedic trickster figure in African folktales (Mickey Mouse). Similaly, artists in “Toonskin use anthropomorphic images in material culture and moving image media to conternplate the Felationship between historical formations, contemporary and "otherworldly" meanings of space, and time. Images of Blacknessin the dominant mind found illustrative voice in the pencil cartaons Bringing up Father (1828) and Little Nenio (I907%; they contained images of Blackness as an identity of depravity and laziness, but sometimes as an identity of wit and ingenuity. Comic strips by Black Americans ‘were published in Black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender, which made waves in the early twentieth century by transgressing typologies of the Black body and by addressing segregation, migration, intraclass. conflict, and Leftist organizing, Indeed, Jay Jackson's Bungleton Green (1920), Jackie Zelda Ormes! Terchy Brown (1937, and Jimmy Dixon's Barry Jordan (1954) would use the comic strip as a form of Political philosophy and comedic pleasure’. Black comic artists in mainstream newspapers followed suit, most notably Robert Armstrong's Jump Start (1969), Barbara Brandon Croft's Where 1m Coming From (1991), and Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks (1996). Jump Start championed the middle-class narratives Barry Jordan made popular inthe 1950s ky using bold color and simple lines to illustrate the lives of an upwardly mobile Black family. Where fm Coming from used blackandvhite drawings of talking heads with detalled cultural features to create dialogicism; Brandon-Croft's Grawings would place readers in the position as eavet-dropper to the political and sacial conversations of ‘young Black women. The Boondocks made use ofan Alroanime aesthetic to question US militarism, the commodification of Black culture, and to position the hip-hop generation as an