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Comics: Macro, Micro and in Reality

Caesar Meadow's "Dank Mirth" is a dark, hilarious trip



Living in New Orleans it is possible that you may have acquired a small plastic bubble with a tiny 12-page comic book inside. One of these curious items might have been handed out at Mardi Gras, or it could be found in a capsule vending machine somewhere in the city. The person behind these little creations is Caesar Meadows, a New Orleans cartoonist whose work has appeared in local publications Where Y'at and AntiGravity Magazine. In "Dank Mirth" Caesar’s quirky characterizations burst from the pages of his "Qomix" strip into the space of the Antenna Gallery.

 

The sense of humor behind Meadow's work can best be described by the artist himself: "Dank Mirth is my term for a particular style of gallows humor familiar to those who make New Orleans their home. It is being able to still laugh at life when facing extraordinary misfortune. Taking comfort in surrendering to the fundamental absurdity of life rather than gnashing ones teeth at its inexplicable unfairness."

 

As grim as Caesar sounds, the humor in his art is very silly and over the top. One cannot help but giggle while standing under a floating comic strip thought-bubble with the words " Huh? Did I spy a poo poo kitty sneaking' out the door?" or "Damn, these satin panties are really creepin' up my butt-crack". About a dozen of these double-sided, plywood panels with similar quotes are hung from the gallery ceiling. On walls painted bright red and blue there is a series of one-frame comic strips that were painted on a square section of potato sac material. Referred to by the artist as "Qomix burlaps", these depictions of devastated characters in ridiculous circumstances test the boundaries of utter stupidity and comic brilliance. 

 

The inherent conflict in Caesar’s Qomic burlaps is everyday man versus his grotesque environment, conveyed through the artist’s own brand of sharp wit.  In “Fang hang” a dork wearing a green bowtie hangs from the tooth of a purple-skinned demon in a fiery underground hell. The dork’s undesirable fate is inevitable and laughable at the same time. “Little Beardies” shows an old man with little demons nesting in the waves of his flowing beard. While one demon sits in the corner grinding his teeth in anger, the rest seem drunk and jubilant. The old man is unimpressed with the creatures, yet his expression says that he is not compelled enough to do anything about them. One can only project what metaphor lies behind these images.

 

One of the more subtle successes of “Dank Mirth” is how seemingly small curatorial decisions cause the viewers to enter the world of Meadow’s comics. The genius use of the exhibition space allowed an artist whose primary medium is a printed comic strip to seamlessly explore the possibilities of viewer interactivity. Snapshots taken at the opening reception depict gallery hoppers as the characters trapped in Caesar’s script of a doomed reality. The way the curators pulled this one off is through a simple altering of visual perspective by painting each wall a bright color. It is not the flatness of the thought bubble that has entered the three dimensional world, it is the people that have been flattened into a forced two-dimensional reading of the photographs.

 

In one corner of the gallery there is a pedestal set up with small sculptures and mementos. My only criticism of the show would exist in this small area that appeared to be thrown in as an afterthought. Meadow’s small-scale installation is visually appealing, but does not match up when compared to the strength of the rest of the show. It seems that Caesar just started working in three dimensions and it would be nice to see where he would take it as he opens up possibilities for working with new materials. I would love to see what he would come up with when handed a few bars of colored Sculpey, multicolored sheets of felt, some cardboard, and a hot glue gun.

 

When in familiar territory, Caesar Meadow’s work is astute, and the slyness of his fellow art exhibitors is exceptional. Antenna Gallery certainly is a bright spot in the Bywater/ St. Claude art scene. With the show re-opening this weekend after minor flooding in the gallery, the public will have another chance to check out this unique one-artist show. Details can be found at http://www.press-street.com/antenna.
 

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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