PHONO+GRAPHIC in Toronto, a guest post by Christopher Butcher

Today we hand over the Nuvango Blog to our friend, Christopher Butcher (he will do a proper introduction below). We are huge fans of what Christopher and his team at Toronto Comics get up to and we were super stoked when they approached us about bringing this traveling exhibit to our Nuvango Gallery, in the heart of Toronto.

Read on for his story of vinyl, art and comics:

Bowie Phono+Graphic TCAF Nuvango Gallery

Diamond Dogs, by David Bowie. Art by Guy Peellaert

Hi there, I’m Christopher Butcher, the Director of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or as we like to call it, TCAF (like decaf). The good folks at Nuvango have given me a little space here to talk about our recent gallery exhibition, PHONO+GRAPHIC: 100 Vinyl Album Covers X 100 Comic Book Artists. It’s a gallery show that recontextualizes one of the most ubiquitous and powerful mediums of the 20th century—Vinyl Album Cover Artwork—showing it’s shared roots with another powerful medium of artistic expression, comic books.  

Phono+Graphic and TCAF at the Nuvango Gallery

Bobby Digital, by RZA. Art by Bill Seinkevitch.
I remember being entranced by my parents vinyl album collection as a kid, the rich warm sound of playing a record through our old tube amp as I laid on the floor listening to Prince, Cyndi Lauper, The Beatles, and Boney M, intently focused on the photographs, the illustrations, the lyrics and liner notes, those are some of my happiest childhood memories. Likewise I spent many, many days curled up with comics on the couch, reading through fantastic adventures and slowly growing into more provocative and challenging work as I got older. There’s a huge amount of emotion invested into both comic books and vinyl records by their fans, and when those feelings collide it can be magical. Seeing Tank Girl co-creator Jamie Hewlett create the visuals for the virtual-pop band Gorillaz, or Elektra: Assassin artist Bill Sienkiewicz create an insane illustration for RZA’s Bobby Digital persona, it’s like the greatest possible superhero team-up. That’s what makes PHONO+GRAPHIC such a fun and successful show, in my ever-humble opinion.

Johnny Cash Phono+Graphic Nuvango Gallery TCAF

Everybody Loves A Nut, by Johnny Cash. Art by Jack Davis.

PHONO+GRAPHIC is actually a touring show, headed here from England (and headed back in July). I first saw it last October, when myself and some of the TCAF staff and a handful of Canadian comic book artists travelled to Kendal, UK for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF). Comic book artist and curator of PHONO+GRAPHIC, Sean Phillips, is a patron of LICAF, and put together the PHONO+GRAPHIC show as a centerpiece of that Festival, showcasing the work of many brilliant comic illustrators, including quite a few who happened to be there in person to see their work hung on a gallery wall. When I saw the exhibition I was so incredibly impressed, as it mixed both forms of my childhood nostalgia, for music and for comics, into something new, and great… and something that we should be doing here in Toronto.

Public Enemy Phono+Graphic TCAF at the Nuvango Gallery

Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age, by Public Enemy. Art by Mark Texeira.

PHONO+GRAPHIC in its original incarnation captured an incredible array of important and iconic artworks, from Guy Peelart’s iconic and disturbing cover for Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs,” to the great French artist Moebius’ iconic take on Jimi Hendrix on “Are You Experienced?” to Mad Magazine’s Jack Davis lending his talent for caricature to a fantastic drawing of Johnny Cash on “Everybody Loves A Nut.” Many important UK comics artists also make appearances, as Phillips paid tribute to his peers with works included by Hunt Emerson, Brian Bolland, Rian Hughes, Brett Ewins, Duncan Fegredo—the list goes on and on! Standing in the Kendal Museum, looking at the show, I was thrilled—and also started mentally making a checklist of pieces I knew were ‘missing’ from the show (because I’m that kind of asshole). Canadian cartoonist Seth’s incredible cover, illustrations, and comics for Aimee Mann’s “Lost In Space” weren’t represented, as that Vinyl was out of print and fetching a crazy amount on the secondary market. Likewise Toronto Comics Wunderkinds Michael DeForge and Patrick Kyle had each contributed some amazing cover artwork to Toronto’s punk scene (that probably hadn’t gotten UK distribution), and Japanese ero-guro artist Shintaro Kago had done a mind-blowing cover (literally) for Flying Lotus’ “You’re Dead” that would’ve made a bright red splash on the gallery walls.

Gorillaz Phono+Graphic Nuvango Gallery


Gorillaz, by Gorillaz. Art by Jamie Hewlett.

Luckily Sean and the LICAF crew were thrilled with the idea of the show touring to Toronto. Even more luckily, they were open to the idea of us mucking about in their carefully curated show, shoving in more Canadians, more weird punk albums, and more content in general to continue to explore the richness of these artworks. We even got to add in two pieces from Grimes and Kid Koala, who are the cover artists for their own albums, and they’re comic creators too! All in all there are more than 30 additional pieces present in the Toronto version of the show, and of course, we missed a couple that were too hard to find, or out of print, or that we just had no idea about, and that means that PHONO+GRAPHIC will continue to grow and evolve as it tours around the world—even hopefully back to Toronto one day.

Art Angels by GRIMES for Phono+Graphic at the Nuvango Gallery

Art Angels, by Grimes. Art by Grimes.

In closing, I just want to take the opportunity to thank Nuvango for their incredible support of this show (including that awesome window print brightening up Queen Street, cheers 3M), as well as curator Sean Phillips, Julie and the staff of LICAF, and Jarrett, Paul, and Krystle from TCAF who helped pull the Canadian version of the show together. It was great, and we hope to bring something just as cool, and just as comics, to Nuvango again for TCAF 2017.

You still have 48hrs to catch PHONO+GRAPHIC at the Nuvango Gallery before the exhibit comes down to make room for our incoming interactive polaroid exhibit, INSTANT.

Art Brut Nuvango Gallery and  PHONO+Graphic by TCAF

Brilliant! Tragic!, by Art Brut. Art by Jamie McKelvie.  

Phono+Graphic TCAF