- Acid-free comic book backing board, alcohol based ink, polypropylene bag, toploader, mixed media
- 11" x 8"
"Getting a handle on what began as accidents, the lines smearing. Exaggerating their gestures, the arrangement of colors respond to the varied gray and white ground as well as the sharp, dense lines. I wanted to balance some of the sharpness with more quiet in the colors. Greens make a somewhat unusual appearance. I thought of flowers and grass."
- 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.