The Documents programme explores the relationships between art and publishing, examining themes that include the effects of archive on narratives of art history, the artist’s book and publishing as an artistic practice. This instalment centres on the work of draughtsman and cartoonist Chris Ware (Omaha, Nebraska, 1967), one of the pre-eminent names in independent comics. Ware will also take part in a conversation with Elisa McCausland and encounter with Carla Berrocal, Enrique Bordes and Raquel Jimeno.
The comic can be regarded as a form of visual writing which, in contrast to prose, gives rise to associations and forms of reminiscence through the conjunction of text and image. Using this quality, Ware explores the borders between the real and the imagined, untethering the full potential of a perfected and virtuoso drawing to shape an architectural world inhabited by profoundly melancholy beings. Such examples are the orphan Jimmy Corrigan, the lonely Rusty Brown or the sad mouse Quimby, a version of Ignatz the mouse, a character by his much-admired George Herriman, one of the pioneers of the medium alongside Winsor McCay, or more recently Charles Schulz, both of whom Ware also cites and pays homage to. Despite their predicaments of failure and marginalisation, these characters continue to dream of other lives, a strain between the realism and escapism characterising the universe and personal history of the comics the artist creates. A further hallmark of his practice are his graphic novels straddling book and artefact, and his design of every aspect, from the typeface to the binding, from the overall storyline to the complex world in each vignette. Moreover, he explores and expands the creative possibilities of the book as an object, as in Building Stories (Pantheon Graphic Novels, 2012), a collection in box format which contains fourteen different types of printed works — newspapers, magazines, folded boards, pamphlets and leaflets — in no particular order and can thus be read depending on the connections each reader wishes to make.
At once a brilliant inventor and methodical artisan of books, Ware has connected with the origins of the comic book, putting forward powerful narrative revisions, and showing us, in a celebration of reading, narration and the page, how the comic strip and drawn stories, even in the digital age, are among the most fascinating artistic practices of our time.
Chris Ware is a cartoonist. His graphic art, which draws inspiration from American artists from the beginning and middle of the twentieth century, and experiments with the language of the medium are a reference point for scores of cartoonists and illustrators worldwide. His graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000) won the Guardian First Book Award (UK, 2001) and the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Album (Angoulême, France, 2003), while Building Stories received the Eisner Award in 2013. His work has also been displayed in museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 2002), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, 2006) and Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, 2022). His practice extends beyond the sphere of the cartoon strip, encompassing illustration and graphic design, as shown by his different covers for The New Yorker or his design of George Herriman’s series Krazy & Ignatz for the publishing house Fantagraphics (2019–2023).
Carla Berrocal is an illustrator and cartoonist. Notable among her publications are Epigrafías (Libros del Autoengaño, 2017), La geometría de los silencios: Relatos reales de vidas imaginarias (CEPE, 2019) and Doña Concha. La rosa y la espina (Reservoir Books, 2021). For the third project mentioned she received a MAEC-AECID Comic Book Grant from the Spanish Academy in Rome. Furthermore, she has curated, with Elisa McCausland, the exhibition Presentes: autoras de tebeo de ayer y hoy (Colectivo de Autoras de Cómic and AECID, 2016), which has toured different institutions.
Enrique Bordes is an architect and researcher specialised in graphic art and comics. His work encompasses different spheres such as the comic strip, architecture, museography and photography. Since 2003, he has combined his professional work with university lecturing and, in 2015, was awarded a grant from the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome, in the Design section. He is the author of the publication Cómic, arquitectura narrativa (Cátedra, 2017).
Raquel Jimeno is an activity coordinator at the Museo Reina Sofía.
Elisa McCausland (1983) is a journalist, critic and researcher specialised in comics. She is a regular contributor to Radio 3, Dirigido por, El Salto and Sofilm, and her most notable publications include Wonder Woman. El feminismo como superpoder (Errata Naturae, 2017) and, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas. Una historia de la ciencia ficción audiovisual (Errata Naturae, 2019) and Sueños y Fábulas. Historia de Vertigo (Ecc Ediciones, 2022). Furthermore, she has curated the exhibition Presentes: Autoras de tebeo de ayer y hoy (Rome, 2016), and promoted Colectivo de Autoras de Cómic (The Collective of Women Comics Artists) and is a member of the ECC-UAH Chair of Comic Research and Culture.