Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lynd Ward, wordless novels in woodcuts

Ya gotta jump on this one, all six of Lynd Ward's wordless novels in woodcuts including his writings as a two volume boxed set (Library of America, 2011), edited by Art Spiegelman known notably for RAW magazine, graphic novel masterpiece Maus: A Survivor's Tale, and his work as editor at The New Yorker.

A compendium like this hasn't been seen since Storyteller Without Words (Abrams, 1974).

Ward's early graphic novels are still some of the best, each frame elegantly eye-catching yet trenchant.  Today's proliferating graphic novels, often inconsistently or even shoddily produced despite being slicker, could use some lessons from Ward. 

Of course, it's better to have the original editions, although they're getting harder to get.  But fortunately, all six novels are independently available now in affordable formats. 

God's Man (Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 1930), reprinted (Dover, 2004)
Madman's Drum (Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, 1930), reprinted (Dover, 2005)
Wild Pilgrimage (Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1932), reprinted (Dover, 2008)
Prelude to a Million Years (Equinox, 1933), reprinted (Dover, 2010)
Song Without Words (Random House, 1936), reprinted (Dover, 2010)
Vertigo (Random House, 1937), reprinted (Dover, 2009)

Unfortunately, Ward's incomplete novel, printed in a limited edition as Lynd Ward's Last Unfinished Wordless Novel (Harsimus Press, 2001) is not readily available.

Ward also illustrated many books, including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1934), reprinted (Dover, 2009).

Relatedly, Frans Masereel's works are also available in affordable formats.  Passionate Journey is my favorite.  And again, previous editions are better, but you know the story...

Not many monographs on Masereel in English.  Roger Avermaete's Frans Masereel (Rizzoli, 1977) is a nice American edition.  Stefan Zweig's Der Zwang (Enforcement) was illustrated by Masereel, and the writer also contributed to a monograph on the artist. 

A pretty good introductory book on the subject.

You're no good anymore, 2002.  Linocut.
La Loteria IV, 1996.  Linocut.
Also, while we're on the subject of relief printmaking, people should be more familiar with a contemporary master, Artemio Rodriguez.  He used to live in Los Angeles, had a print studio La Mano Press, recently relocated to Mexico to dedicate himself to El Huerto, Centro de Ecologia y Artes (The Orchard, Center for Ecology and Arts).  Many years ago, I met him when he was just starting out in the U.S. at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, and he's a nice guy ).

Video of El Huerto, Centro de Ecologia y Artes, as well as link to news on Rodriguez.