New York, NY, September 5, 2014—In 1989 Raw magazine published a black-and-white comic strip titled “Here” that was quickly recognized as a game-changer in the art of graphic narrative. Richard McGuire’s thirty-six-frame strip is set in an ordinary living room, but it leaps freely through time, remixing history to produce encounters between past, present, and future inhabitants of the site. To mark the fall 2014 publication of “Here” as an all-new, full-color graphic novel, the Morgan will premiere the first edition of the book and explore the evolution of this contemporary classic and the distinctive working method of the artist. From Here to Here: Richard McGuire Makes a Book opens on September 25 and runs through November 9, 2014.
“Here is a moving meditation on history and memory and the collapsing of time,” said Peggy Fogelman, acting director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “The original drawings and source material in the exhibition offer visitors a fascinating look at Richard McGuire’s wholly unique creative process. We are especially pleased to present the show in conjunction with the much-anticipated publication of the graphic novel.”
“Here” in 1989
In the mid-1980s, McGuire attended a series of lectures on the history of comics by Art Spiegelman at the School of Visual Arts. Inspired by a subsequent cartooning class assignment—and by moving into an old Manhattan apartment, where he still lives today—he conceived an idea for a strip. Set in an ordinary room, its panels would be split down the center: history would move backward on the left side of each frame and forward on the right. Later, when a friend showed McGuire the new Windows operating system, he dropped his split screen idea for a looser approach in which year-labeled “windows” of time would float freely into each frame of action.
Though the viewpoint in “Here” remains fixed on one corner of a living room, time in the story is boundless and elastic. Populating the room with multiple frames of action, dating from the ancient past to the distant future, McGuire conjures narratives, dialogues, and streams of association that unite moments divided by years and centuries. McGuire worked for eight months on “Here,” furnishing it with props and figures derived from his family’s photographs and the picture collection of the New York Public Library. It was published as a six-page feature in Raw in 1989.
“Here” in 2014
During the 1990s, McGuire became a creator of children’s books, toys, and covers for The New Yorker magazine. Meanwhile the public fortunes of comics shifted dramatically. In 1992 Art Spiegelman’s Maus became the first graphic novel awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Eight years later Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth won wide critical acclaim, and McGuire signed a contract with Pantheon Books to expand “Here” into a 300-page graphic novel.
In 2009, as a fellow at The New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, McGuire reconceived “Here” as a full-length novel. To set the action in (more or less) his childhood home in New Jersey, he researched the site’s recent and ancient history. He also began working in color. Most importantly, he expanded the picture area so that the living room would fill each spread of the book, thus placing readers inside the frame of action.
The exhibition combines original drawings for the strip and the novel with source photographs and sketchbooks that afford glimpses into McGuire’s creative process. Also featured are books that provided him with inspiration. McGuire recalls finding Tadanori Yokoo’s Waterfall Rapture, a book of thousands of waterfall postcards, and realizing that one strong idea—the persistence of a single pictorial moment, without start or end—could provide the basis for an entire book. In Evidence, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s influential book of photographs pulled from public and corporate archives, the absence of words compels each viewer to formulate links and connect the images from start to end of the book.
“If Here is about one thing,” McGuire remarks, “it’s that nothing lasts, whatever it is or however permanent it seems.” Now Here itself has come to reflect its creator’s changing perspectives over time. The comic strip, completed when McGuire was in his early thirties, uses the spare visual language of the strip medium to put all of history on a shared, largely humorous plane. In Here the book, finished twenty-five years later, the stage of action has grown wider, the palette of colors and emotions more nuanced, as its author ponders the relationship between memory and history and the lasting pleasures of living in the moment.
Richard McGuire is an artist, designer, filmmaker, and a founding member of the band Liquid Liquid. His books for children include Night Becomes Day and The Orange Book. His art appears frequently in The New Yorker and The New York Times, among other publications.
On This Site (Artist Talk)
In Richard McGuire’s graphic narrative Here, one corner of a living room in New Jersey becomes the point of intersection among events from the past and future. McGuire will be joined in conversation by Michael Benson, author of Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time, and Matt Knutzen, the Geospatial Librarian at The New York Public Library. The program is co-organized with the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Tuesday, September 30, 6:30 PM
Tickets: $15; $10 for Members; Free for students with valid ID
Smithsonian Museum Day (For Kids)
As part of Smithsonian Magazine’s Annual Museum Day, visit the Morgan for free on September 27. To coincide with the exhibition From Here to Here: Richard McGuire Makes a Book, professional comic artist and educator Maggie Siegle-Berele will lead a drop-in comic workshop with live costumed models. Children will learn the fundamentals of comic composition and will produce a short comic strip to tell their own story. Appropriate for ages 6 and up, as well as teenagers. This workshop is limited to families with children.
Saturday, September 27, 2-5 PM
Free with museum admission or Smithsonian Museum Day ticket.
Smithsonian Museum Day tickets can be printed here: smithsonianmag.com/museumday
Ink on Panel: Comics Art 101 (Workshop)
This adult workshop offers a chance at hands-on exploration of visual storytelling. With comic artist, illustrator, and Arts Students League Instructor Steven Walker, participants will learn the language of comics and reflect on the best ways to convey a story by using various illustration techniques.
Friday, November 7, 6-9 PM
Tickets: $20; $15 Members
From Here to Here: Richard McGuire Makes a Book (Gallery Talk)
Joel Smith, Richard L. Menschel Curator and Department Head, Photography
Gallery talks are free with museum admission.
No tickets or reservations are necessary.
Friday, October 10, 6:30 PM