Irreverent, absurd, existentialist – Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead embodies these traits as only a character born out of the San Francisco underground comics scene of the 1970s could. Yet in 2011 he is going stronger than ever, in syndication to about 200 daily newspapers, out in a new book, and now appearing in an inspired exhibition at BCB Art in Hudson.
Titled Are We Having Art Yet? Selected Drawings 1978-2011, the show presents numerous original inked versions of daily strips, several inked originals of a 1990 Zippy calendar, a few pencil renderings of early Zippy covers, and signed inkjet prints of other Zippy material. All the work on the walls is in ink or pencil – i.e. no color – and was, of course, created for reproduction, so it has that special quality of blacks and whites, of hatching and cross-hatching, that gives all graphic art a certain eye-appeal.
But, rather than let the monotony of monochrome get overwhelming, Bruce Bergmann, the gallery’s owner, has placed most of the work along a bright yellow rail, backed by a garish band of the same yellow with a pattern of big, red polka dots. The design scheme is taken from Zip’s costume, but it also imparts a properly carnivalesque atmosphere to the exhibition. Yes, it says, you may be in an art gallery, but you don’t need to take anything too seriously here.