The Drippytown exhibition, located in the quietly unassuming Rare Books and Special Collections Department on the first floor of the Irving K Barber Learning Centre, isn’t exactly what one expects of the art usually on display at UBC. Having to remove one’s bag and coat to view a mere five display cases worth of material—on first impression it’s difficult to understand what the fuss is about.
But the material on display is more than a collection of little comic books. What you are looking at is a series of artworks that evocatively communicate the spirit of living in Vancouver.
The six artists featured in the collection—James Lloyd, Julian Lawrence, Ken Boesem, Colin Upton, Jason Turner and Jose Menjivar—have each created a unique commentary on the often bizarre, decrepit, funny and morbid culture of Vancouver living.
The small collection consists of a series of snapshots into the repertoire of each artist. This is no comic book store; instead, sections of material have been carefully selected to convey what work is typical of the artist.
Each has their own style—Jose Menjivar, for example, creates a visual poetry of sorts, elucidating simple tales of every day life, while Colin Upton prefers to examine the ironic post-punk mentality that often conflicts with the search for identity in Vancouver’s contemporary culture.
The exhibition is important because it presents an entirely different understanding of the comic book medium. When we usually think of comic books, superheroes, sultriness, and silliness come to mind.
However, these local independent artists used the unique capabilities of the medium to convey authentic sentiments on the society in which we live. Their work is not always allegorical; it is often specific (a Ken Boesem piece, for example, captures the types of interesting ‘wildlife’ one can often encounter on Davie Street), and it often refers to the innate human struggles we encounter daily.
It makes sense that the work comes from an anthropological rather than a gallery context, for the material in Drippytown isn’t just a compilation of fantastic and funny artwork; it’s also a collection of items that are direct cultural products of our society. I was informed that the responsibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections department is to obtain and preserve material pertaining to local culture—and I don’t think that there could be contemporary work more relevant to this pursuit than Drippytown. While the collection is small, it’s still a good starting point for further examination of the local, independent comic book scene in Vancouver.
The show has been curated by students of the Visual and Performing Arts special collections course in the school of Library, Archival and Information Studies and is on display until January 31.