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Kapow! Beating 'Party' to the punch
His name is Afrodisiac, and he is one fine brother with a sexy swagger and '70s superhero style. The vision of comic artist Jim Rugg, Afrodisiac is a black superhero aping blaxploitation - a conceit within a conceit.
As Cudlin puts it, "Jim Rugg's Afrodisiac is the equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino movie - it's a white artist's take on contemporary attitudes toward blaxploitation from 30 years ago. It's a copy of a copy of a copy - the urban environment Afrodisiac describes doesn't exist." Some of Rugg's characters will look familiar, though - Richard Nixon appears in a cameo. But one thing you won't see here is any extended narratives; Rugg works in fragments. No plot, please, we're artworks.
A sort-of-close second
The best works by D. Billy aren't comics, per se, but photographic interventions with comic overtones. He'll used colored tape to mark out a thought bubble on a metal door and then park a pram next to it, and pretend there's something the baby might want to say . . . in this case, "WAAHHH!" Then he takes a photo of it. Clever, clever stuff.
Look, ma, no images! The abstract comics tucked into the center's basement boggle the brain. They're what Cudlin calls "comics for comics' sake." Your mind searches for images to latch onto, but these formalist exercises trip us up every time. Abstractions are presented panel by panel, suggesting a narrative but always frustrating one. If it weren't for the deadly charms of Afrodisiac, these comics would have topped my list.
Iona Rozeal Brown is one of the District's sharpest artists. She's represented by only one picture, which isn't enough. But even here she rises above most of her compatriots. Add one part Japanese ukiyo-e print, one part hip-hop culture, blend and serve.
Dash Shaw's multi-part video - it's told in short chapters - tells the tale of an android who yearns to be human. It's a classic trope, but it's told in sweeping, idiosyncratic images.
Dawson is a freelance writer.
Party Crashers: Comic Book Culture is on view at Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Wednesday-Friday 1-7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon-5 p.m., 703-248-6800, to Jan. 16. www.arlingtonartscenter.org. Part 2 is on view in the Terrace Gallery at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 703-875-1101, to Feb. 13. www.artisphere.com. Holiday hours alert: AAC shutters at 4 p.m. Friday and is closed New Year's Day. Artisphere is closed New Year's Day and Sunday.