Clowes-Up: Oakland Museum Readies Daniel Clowes Retrospective

“The only valuable class I took in art school was from a guy who taught display lettering which was literally like sign painting,” says cartoonist (and screenwriter) Daniel Clowes of his formative years at Pratt Intstitute. “Everybody else was like, ‘Aww man, I can’t believe I have to take this cornball class,’ where I was front and center every week. Still to this day I use everything I learned in that class.” Clowes’s irresistible handlettering, groundbreaking graphic novels, beloved New Yorker covers, and much more are the subject of a retrospective that opens next Saturday at the Oakland Museum of California. “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes” is accompanied by a splendid monograph out this month from Abrams ComicArts. Designed by Jonathan Bennett, the book includes essays by the likes Chris Ware and Chip Kidd. And feast your eyes on a test sample animation by Nicholas de Monchaux, who is masterminding the design of the exhibition:

The imminent museum survey earned the cartoonist a Clowes-up—”Humanity’s Discomfort, Punctured with a Pen“—in Sunday’s New York Times, where he shared the front page of the Arts & Leisure section with a Smurfily dressed Nicki Minaj. Among the diverse Clowes admirers that writer Carol Kino rounded up for the profile: Alexander Payne, who is directing the film adaptation of Wilson; Art Spiegelman; and (would you believe?) Neo Rauch. “Dan’s work stands out because of its precision,” Rauch told Kino. The artist was also “fascinated by its underground, slightly creepy aspect,” and added, “Plus, he has a very dark humor that appeals to me immediately.”