Thursday, 21 December 2017

Monograph, by Chris Ware (2017)

Chris Ware does not release books very often, but they generally move away from the usual standards of publishing. His latest book, Monograph, is no exception. Let us start by saying a few words of this book as an object. You may have a hard time storing it in your library: with its 46.5 cm high, 33.5 cm wide and 3 cm thick, it will not go unnoticed; it is even bigger than the Building Stories box, already very impressive. Furthermore, inside this book, a few booklets are pasted on different pages, thus creating secondary books within the main book ... As always, Chris Ware has carefully planned everything, controlled everything, conceived in detail every single inch of the book. And, as usual, it's beautiful, impressive and original.

Fine, but what is it about? What does this "object" contain? This is the illustrated autobiography of Chris Ware. In a chronological way, he tells his life and his work, delivering at the same time his vision of the art of comics.

To understand fully the wealth of Monograph's iconography, it must be remembered that each page by Chris Ware has usually three lives: it is first published in the serialized comic strip that Chirs Ware had been publishing weekly for years (from 1992 to 2009 for his strip The ACME Novelty Library, in NewCity then in The Chicago Reader). The pages are then compiled in the The ACME Novelty Library books (20 volumes published from 1993 to now, plus an additional volume 18 ½, which presents some of his for the New Yorker). Finally, they are brought together again to form the final works, ambitious graphic novels (Jimmy Corrigan in 2000 and Building Stories in 2012, probably Rusty Brown in 2018) or collections of short stories (Quimby the mouse in 2003 and The ACME Novelty Library Report to Shareholders in 2005). For each book, Chris Ware draws new covers, new illustrations, etc. In parallel to this, he provides covers and stories to some prestigious magazines, such as the New Yorker. Beside all this "public" Chris Ware draws sketchbooks and improvised comic books. Last but ot least, Chris Ware is very fond of creating objects, doll houses or figurines figuring characters or places in his comic stories. The wealth of this protean work allows him to have many unpublished drawings and photographs at hand. Even an avid reader of his work will have the pleasure of discovering for the first time some unknown works.

With this very rich book, it is possible to discover further the abundant work of Chris Ware and better understand the intellectual and artistic journey of the author. He is convinced of the wide possibilities offered by comic as an art form to describe the way human spirit and memory work. This magnificent book perfectly exemplifies this, either through Chris Ware’s texts, his published pages or his unpublished works.

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