DART | Design Arts Online

Seth: A Search for The Meaning of Life

By Peggy Roalf   Monday February 1, 2010

When the New York Times Magazine serialized George Sprott: 1894-1975 in its now defunct “Funny Pages” section, it brought to a wide audience the work of Seth, a Canadian comics artist, author and book designer whose own printed output arrives with long stretches between titles. Last year, Drawn & Quarterly released the story in book form, with additional narrative that brought the epic an edgier and more contemporary feel.

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Left: Viewer’s Guide, 2007. Right: Northern Hi-lights with George Sprott, 2007. Copyright Seth, courtesy Adam Baumgold Gallery.

This week, Adam Baumgold Gallery opens an exhibition of 50 drawings, paintings on paper and sculpture for Seth’s first U.S. solo show. Mainly comprised of images from the celebrated graphic novel, it also includes 6 of the artist’s cardboard architectural models, constructed specifically for this show.

The story of George Sprott, an 81-year-old fictional TV personality in the last hours of life before his fatal heart attack, is melancholy, nostalgic, and inward looking. According to the press release, we come to know George in a series of interviews, flashbacks and personal reminiscences. It is a story about time, identity, loss, and the persistence of memory. In the end it is left to the reader to decide whether George’s existence was a life well lived or a tragedy of wasted potential.

Seth’s architectural settings are an important feature of the work, not just for the physical realism they bring to the stories but also as metaphors for much larger themes. But they can also be seen as metaphors for much larger themes. In their towering size and impassive facades, they might be speaking for the banality of everyday life, even for the loss of self in the globalization of small-town Ontario. Each model represents a specific location that can be associated with the character George Sprott.

These 3-D studies for Dominion City, the fictional name of George Sprott’s hometown, enable the artist to create a vivid scenario for his moody tales, which unfold through inventive devices that are unusual in the genre, such as interviews, movies of the character’s experiences in the Arctic, and characters who are collectors of all kinds of things, from arcane facts to photographs and scrapbooks. Also included in the exhibition are Seth’s original gouache and ink paintings from Aimee Mann’s 2002 album Lost in Space.

The opening reception for Seth: George Sprott 1894-1975 is Friday, February 5th from 6 to 8 pm. The show continues through March 13th. Adam Baumgold Gallery, 60 East 66th Street, New York, NY. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11:00 - 5:30 P.M. For additional information, please contact Adam Baumgold at (212)861-7338 or abaumgold@aol.com.