Put Your 3-D Glasses On and Drop Acid Now
Four stellar issues of The Ganzfeld have steadily increased my admiration for its founding editor, Dan Nadel, but now he’s outdone himself by starting Picture Box, Inc., a press that publishes otherworldly, insane-genius style art books. Picture Box premiered two new books this past month, Leif Goldberg’s comix anthology Free Radicals, and Paperrad’s BJ and Da Dogs. Both titles are exquisitely designed, which I imagine will be the hallmark of the imprint. For example, BJ contains varying signatures of paper from thin four-color photo paper, to black glossy paper printed with neon green ink, to pink, yellow, and blue pages with different rainbow inks. It has a metallic-embossed cover. Free Radicals is pocket paperback-sized, and is also filled with colored papers that stack upon each other, giving it a Neapolitan ice-cream sandwich effect. But before lavishing praise on Paperrad and Paper Rodeo (Goldberg’s newspaper that inspired his book), let me first elucidate The Ganzfeld’s world to newcomers.
There is no other publication like The Ganzfeld. It mashes fiction, art criticism, comix, high art, scientific studies, illustration, and writing about commercial arts like logo design and packaging—each issue is seriously bound, like a book—and done so with a master’s touch. Issue #2’s cover featured a Mike Mills drawing of some pigeons sitting on a phone line, #3 had a magnified moth on the front, and the new issue #4 is decorated with faux Egyptian glyphs by Dirty Plotte’s Julie Doucet. Nowhere else do so many creative worlds collide with successful results. A highlight that comes to mind: Rick Moody’s fiction paired with Fred Tomaselli’s paintings in issue #3. In the current issue, essays about Hipgnosis and Athanasius Kircher (one of my heroes!) serve as fascinating bookends to an interview with Harry Smith about String Games. A piece by Peter Saul regarding his new paintings is the most inspiring read I’ve had in the past several months (“I feel drunk on the thrills of subject matter,” Saul says.). The only other well-designed magazine that even competes with The Ganzfeld is Cabinet, although their niche is headier, more graphic-design oriented, and less humorous.
Given Nadel’s editorial taste for art that functions as eye candy but isn’t intellectually vacuous, it makes perfect sense that he would publish Paperrad’s first hardcore book. Paperrad, the collective consisting of Jessica & Jacob Ciocci, and Ben Jones, are known for their sensory-overloaded comix, music videos, and art installations that involve all manner of fantasy characters. The aesthetic is early computer and 80’s cartoons. Tux Dog, Trolls, Gay Nerd, Spaceballs, Alfe, and Gumby are some of my favorite recurring Paperrad Pals. Paperrad have published everywhere, from Kramer’s Ergot to McSweeney’s, made billions of zines and flyers, shown at various galleries like Deitch (in collaboration with Cory Archangel), sewn tee shirts and small pillows called Puffy Smalls, made strobe-like, migraine-inducing videos for bands like Bubble Puppy, Thirteen Monsters, and other Load Records mysterions (who even knows if these are real bands), but this book is really hilarious. Open it up to read about how “men have ushered in a time of dark, shitty, chaos, of stabbing their genitals, acting like assholes…the New Dark Age, one of fear…smearing shit to draw their horrible self-portraits.” In “Spaceballs,” a robot dog that constantly shits square cubes inside the spaceship reprimands his astronaut-owner for never walking him. In “USA Is A Monster: Screwing Nature” some redneck hunters buttfuck deer, and while a bear humps President Bush, he utters “I’m passing a law against this asap.” Occasionally, author Ben Jones peeps through; in one spread containing twelve panels drawn exactly the same, he says, “Oops I just went crazy for a second.” The mix of political satire and druggy weirdness is totally fresh, even though it comes out of a tradition. Nods to Garfield and the Simpsons remind readers of other sarcastic-but-cute characters we’ve grown up with. I could rant about my obsession with Tux Dog for the next thousand words, but I won’t. Let’s just say, Tux Dog is by far the best comic book character in existence today. Luckily, BJ and Da Dogs has lots of Tux.
If you want something fun to read, I recommend anything from Picture Box. These books will become collector’s items for sure. Watch for upcoming books by Jim Drain, Brian Chippendale, Black Dice, Marc Bell, and Sonic Youth, among others.