- Acid-free comic book backing board, alcohol based ink, toploader, mixed media
- 11" x 8"
"This work is very unusual for not having a polypropylene bag. The board in #138 comes from the only book I currently collect and receive new issues of in the mail. For whatever reason its publisher includes these weird, slightly wider than usual boards which the bags will not fit. They have an interesting surface which differs very slightly from the standard ones I use for my work, and collection of comics, as well. I knew that because I only have a few of this kind of board I wanted to make it stand out in other ways, as well. The lines were very loose and I let that guide my choice of colors. I think it’s kind of clownish, which is both festive and cold when considering its subject of the shadowy figures."
- Michael Bussell
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Born in Wilmette, IL; based in Baltimore, MD
Michael Bussell makes mixed-media drawings that track how characters—and the values and meanings that we associate with them—mutate and proliferate through contemporary culture. In this series on comic book backing board, Bussell renders the face of Gengar from the Pokémon franchise. He begins with linework, creating cells that the artist then fills in with grays or pops of color that animate the cartoonish persona. Bussell uses ink, a material to which he gravitates because of its permanence: “The only kind of erasure that's possible is a kind of further distortion, or more commonly, obfuscation with another element [... such as] covering it with paper or sticker paper.”
Represented with expressive graphic marks, the Gengar figure in Bussell’s hands appears to resolve and then dissolve again before the viewer’s eyes. The artist’s lines dramatically shift in density, from thin delicate strands to thick blunt strokes. Such depictions gesture in style to Pokémon trading cards, video games, and manga as well as graphic novels, graffiti, and fan art at large.
The artist sometimes adds a matte paper on top of the backing board, and often places each composition in a polypropylene bag. He then inserts it into a toploader—a plastic sleeve that typically houses comic books—that acts as a frame. The glossy and reflective nature of these pieces make them resemble stained glass, as writer Anastasios Karnazes has noted. Across this body of work that ranges widely despite its uniformity, Gengar’s expressions are ever transforming. This series echoes how entertainment and media is perpetually metamorphosing our physical and virtual experiences.