What Am I Doing Here?

Abner Dean. New York Review Comics, $22.98 (168p) ISBN 978-1-68137-049-1
This reissue of Dean’s 1947 book seems at first glance like a collection of New Yorker style cartoons, but his work is far more avant-garde. Dean’s world is inhabited by throngs of ordinary but naked people going through their slightly oddball routines. Within that world, he places one fellow who often asks the titular question, as well as uttering other phrases the spring from mundane origins, providing Dean the conduit for visual absurdity and comment. Though the format is single panel cartoons, the book is best read as a narrative chopped up and then mixed around into some random form. The phrases Dean uses, like “Not too many!” and “It’s all true” and “Let’s clean up the place” predate the work of Jenny Holzer in harnessing everyday language as art, but Dean takes it one step further, illustrating what the sentences mean in a world far from our own, yes connected by the appearance of a shared humanity. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
Genre: Comics
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