The most recent volume of graphics from J. Daniel Abel is, at times, something of a train wreak, but one might say in a good way.
His earliest book of graphics “Newsprint” saw a few expressionist chops bob to the surface, here and there, before disappearing back into the demands of another editorial assignment. In “Black marks” the beast is off the chain, and Abel’s inner Kirchner howls. Composed in isolation during the great pandemic of 2019-20 “Black marks” is a scrambled concoction of dark subjects, everything from punk rock posters to hospice patients, rendered in what looks, for all the world, like block printing. Abel’s process is a very different, and even has a digital element, but the result is the same - raw, choppy, visceral, and defiantly anti-decorative.
No colors in this book. For Abel, black is the only color that matters. He seems to regard anything else as a distraction.
In this set, Abel is the least ingratiating artist that ever lived. He whacks at some of these graphics with a 9 pound hammer. While his debt to the German “Die Bruke” printmakers of the early 20th century is both deep and acknowledged, Abel patches in so many other, off-the-wall ideas, grunge, surrealism, Gustave Dore and the kitchen sink, it’s sometimes impossible to figure out just where he’s coming from - and he seems to like it that way. A couple of ideas take themselves so seriously they’re borderline silly, but Abel’s characteristic black humor usually lets him get by with anything, and he augments his set at with prints of uncompromising tragic power.
At a time when nearly all art and illustration has retreated into trivial, high-gloss, mannerized meaninglessness, Abel proposes to make a print series that is mainly about statement, content, and visual drama.
There is some courage in that, as it will never make him a fan favorite.
Paperbound - 88 Pages - 86 reproductions - B/W