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Inside the exhibition

Nine radiations

Graphic Constellation. Young Women Authors of Avant-garde Comics

The stars that make up a constellation like the one at the centre of this exhibition project not only illuminate each other thanks to their proximity, but also shine their light onto various parts of a much more extensive territory such as the realm of the comic and other neighbouring areas. In this instalment of "Inside the Exhibition", each of the nine authors continues to radiate in their own particular way: some show aspects of their identity that were left out of the final exhibition, others air incisive opinions on the social or cultural context, and others still reveal formative rituals or they enlarge, in often unexpected ways, the battleground of their individual aesthetic.

Text by Jordi Costa, head of exhibitions at CCCB.



Portable inspiration

When Robert Crumb, one of the founding fathers of underground comix, created Fritz the Cat, he was, perhaps unwittingly, drawing an illuminating line connecting the countercultural comic strip with the tradition of funny animals that had filled many of the cartoon strips in the press that he had read during his childhood. Counterculture is not exactly the perversion of the mythologies of youth but an extension, by other means, of that capacity for subversion and that imaginative freedom that define the gaze of someone who has never had to contend with the mortifications and disappointments of adult life. Roberta Vázquez, heir to the irreverent and Dionysian character of the great Crumb, creates some of her most unforgettable characters using a methodology that also builds bridges between a dazzling childhood and a vitriolic present. Iconic figures, dolls and toys like the Polly Pocket cases/doll’s houses inspire many of her works. As Vázquez recalls, "One of my first memories of making comics is playing with figurines in the form of forest animals, which came as a gift with Kinder eggs, and one day beginning to draw them in the format of a comic so I could tell stories with them. I have continued to employ this system over the years, I like to draw inspiration from small figurines to create characters, sometimes I seek them out and buy them, in other instances I come across them completely unexpectedly." In the gallery we present here, Vázquez connects these magical objects with the echoes they leave in her work.


From the speech bubble to the banner

What is the connection between the speech bubbles in a comic strip and the banners on which groups sum up their militant demands? Bàrbara Alca’s custom of designing a feminist banner for every International Women’s Day invites us to ponder on the fact that the militant banner that declares its wit and fury in the middle of a demonstration could be regarded as one of the many infiltrations of the language of the comic into the public space. Among other reasons because the ability of Alca’s banners to combine a sense of humour, biting references to present-day circumstances and gender awareness makes it possible to view them as a coherent enlargement of the cutting and combative discourse of her comic strips.


A question of visibility

At the 2017 Barcelona Comic Fair, Conxita Herrero, named best new author for Gran bola de helado, took advantage of the award ceremony to drop a bombshell by reading a statement in protest at the striking gender imbalance of a list on which just three of the thirty-five nominations were women authors. The Angoulême International Comics Festival had also been a scene of controversy the year before when leading creators such as Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Milo Manara, Joann Sfar, Pierre Christin, Étienne Davodeau, Riad Sattouf and Chris Ware joined the boycott prompted by the lack of women among the candidates for the event’s main prize. Herrero believed a similar stance would be taken in Barcelona, but she had to be the one who raised her voice against the Goliath of gender discrimination.

Intervention by Conxita Herrero at the Barcelona International Comic Fair 2017.


The palaces of the people

One of the key factors in the democratisation of comic reading in recent years has been the growing contribution of the network of public libraries, which have been adding to their holdings not only the classics in the medium but also contemporary works in all their forms, aesthetics, registers and variants. The programming of exhibitions, courses, workshops and activities related to raising awareness of comics has also been fundamental and some libraries, among them Can Fabra in the Sant Andreu neighbourhood and Tecla Sala in L’Hospitalet, have made a name for themselves due to their commitment to the medium. Within Spain, there is also the shining example of ComicTeca at the Murcia Regional Library, which features furnishings designed by the renowned author Ana Galvañ. In the case of Nadia Hafid, the opening of Terrassa Central Library was a key moment in her early days as a reader, as she recalls in this clip from an interview filled with contagious enthusiasm.

Nadia Hafid talks about public libraries (2022).

Poetry in drawings

Marta Cartu’s career is full of fruitful intersections between disciplines: as well as exploring the more experimental possibilities offered by comics in her fanzines and her later work Hola Siri, Cartu has made forays into the codes of performance and installation art and has introduced sequential narratives into her remarkable ceramic pieces. In 2020, she examined the opportunities for dialogue between the languages of the comic strip and poetry through her involvement in the Dúplex project, which had earlier proposed daring dance couples of poets and comic artists in its editions in Holland and Britain prior to the event’s arrival in Spain, where it was introduced by the Alas Ediciones and Ediciones Marmotilla publishing houses. Cartu worked closely with the Salamancan poet Óscar Rodríguez Martín, producing this piece we are reviving here, in which the artist’s drawings and their colours, as well as the bold page layout, help to heighten the power of the poetic word.


Collaboration between the poet Óscar Rodríguez Martín and Marta Cartu for the Dúplex project.



Digital visionary

As a member of the mintamintae collective, Miriampersand devotes much of her creative work to digital art, experimenting with illustrations that seem to have emerged from an alternate reality and with animations intended to generate atmospheric effects of a seductive unreality. The pieces presented here were created for two exhibitions mounted in the context of festivals: the first of them, As Above, So Below, was featured in ArtBabel, a show that was part of the programming of the Río Babel festival, held in Madrid in July 2022, in which the selected artists were invited to explore the concept of fluid; and the second, Your Off, My On, included in the On/Off exhibition of the OFFF Sevilla festival held in December 2022, posits a reflection on the idea that one person’s waste is another person’s treasure by presenting the apocalyptic image of a rat enjoying humankind’s detritus.


As Above, So Below , 2022

Your Off, My On, 2022



The realm of street art

One of the many facets of Genie Espinosa’s artistic oeuvre is not presented in paper format that allows the comic, illustration and poster art to be combined, but on walls in the public space or on the frontages of bars and shops willing to bring out the full battery of the heavy artillery of chromatic seduction. Genie Espinosa’s work, with echoes of Dionysian Pop, is related to the more urban side of her aesthetic universe, the one that makes her feel as comfortable drawing teenagers living on the outskirts of cities as she is designing a commercial image for artists such as Nathy Peluso. This is just a small selection from her vast body of work and includes the video that captures in brief the creation of a mural that Genie Espinosa painted with the artist Egle Zvirblyte.

Genie Espinosa and Egle Zvirblyte painting a mural in Barcelona.


The graphic novel and its environs

In 1978, Will Eisner, the creator of the classic character the Spirit, used the strategy of describing his last work – his ambitious Contract with God – as a graphic novel in a bid to ensure that the publishing market would treat it as just another book rather than condemning it to the specialist comic circuit and the segregation that would imply. The label has been used since then to identify a number of seminal works such as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, although Satrapi has rejected the term, saying that what she creates are fundamentally comic books, nothing more and nothing less. There have been positive consequences to defining works as graphic novels: bookshops, the media and some readers have been attracted by a language that they had previously looked somewhat askance at and so the comic book – the sole constituent essence of the graphic novel – has reached places where it has never been seen before. However, this is counterbalanced by certain undesirable aspects of the label, which has become a kind of passport to cultural validation, the outcome of which is that many other forms of the sequential narrative are going ignored to a degree. Here Ana Galvañ presents her defence of the wealth of a medium defined by its varied range of registers.

Ana Galvañ talks about Graphic novel (2022).


The Sibyl in the necropolis

The animated image has provided María Medem and her poetic, evocative and atmospheric aesthetic with a fruitful sphere for experimentation, as she incorporates a number of solutions for shot planning and analytical composition that transpose some of the more imaginative formal proposals from her comic strip work into the moving image. Bands such as Bombay Bicycle Club, Hovvdy, Olovson and Hermanos Gutiérrez have inspired her magic in a series of music videos of a truly hypnotic beauty. A list now joined by the cantaor (flamenco singer) Perrate in Medem’s latest audiovisual work, La Sibila (The Sibyl). This piece marks a turning point in her career as an animator, as in this instance the lines and forms are overlaid on real images from a sequence shot in an especially resonant place, the tomb of Servilia in Carmona Necropolis. The team that worked on La Sibila, overseen by Carolina Cebrino, included many well-known figures, among them Dani de Zayas (live sound) and Eduardo Jara (photography), both recognised names in the audiovisual industry.

PERRATE canta a la Sibila, 2023. Directed by Carolina Cebrino. Direction of Animations and Animation: María Medem. Produced by Cabrera Films.  

Graphic Constellation

Young Women Authors of Avant-garde Comics

2 December 2022 — 18 June 2023

Bàrbara Alca, Marta Cartu, Genie Espinosa, Ana Galvañ, Nadia Hafid, Conxita Herrero, María Medem, Miriampersand and Roberta Vázquez make up the constellation of creative universes that is this exhibition. Nine artists who experiment with styles and languages, who break with comic-book conventions, and share a critical and humorous view of the world.

More information on the exhibition