Here Comes Kitty: The beauty and musicality of nonsense

News Section, Reviews

February 20th, 2015


(Review) Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera by Richard Kraft


A Comic Book that Reads Like Sheet Music


Originally published February 20, 2015


Richard Kraft’s Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera explodes off the page. Kraft, a multidisciplinary artist, pastes images of Hindu gods next to exercise diagrams and drawings of monkeys and elephants into bars and restaurants — all superimposed on a pre-existing 1960s Cold War–era comic. Equally bizarre and juxtaposed fragments of text, composed by Danielle Dutton, accompany the images. The effect is seductive. To use the words of Dutton, “It’s something about being read to as a child, where you are starting to fall asleep, and the same book has been read to you over and over, and these familiar images keep coming up, and there is a tug of the narrative, but you’re falling asleep at the same time.” Kraft’s collages and Dutton’s textual “interpolations” tug at the edges of the reader’s imagination and memory. Kraft and Dutton gathered at Printed Matter last week, with moderator Alberto Mobilio, a Weekend editor of Hyperallergic, to celebrate and launch this new artist book. Published by Siglio Press, whose slogan is “uncommon books at the intersection of art & literature,” Here Comes Kitty blurs the lines between prose poetry and visual collage.

What’s particularly interesting about this book is the multiple levels of interventions, which together transform the original comic book into an artist book. The first is of course Kraft’s collage interventions, removing the unreadable (to him) Polish text and replacing it with at times equally obscure images, as birds float in text bubbles and babies mingle with Nazi soldiers. (The original narrative follows the Polish spy, Kapitan Kloss, on his missions to defeat the Nazis.) “Unlike many comics, it had a lot of language in it, which I couldn’t read, because it was in Polish,” explains Kraft. “I began just by cutting out the text and filling in the empty space with different images.” Then, into these collaged spreads, Dutton intervenes with her pages of prose poetry, always as four pages of text that separate the dense visuals. Phrases such as “MOM LAYS AN EGG,” “I used to think everybody should be a machine,” and “Billionaire poets love cows!” evoke much of the jostling imagery of the panels.

At first, Dutton did not see any of Kraft’s visuals; the two merely discussed the project over the phone. As they talked, Dutton explained at the event, “I was writing down these weird lists of words like different heads on bodies and mustaches and menagerie. I had this weird grab bag of words.” Unlike her previous prose poetry project with Siglio, SPRAWL, which contains no visuals, these words were going to be sliced in between Kraft’s images, almost competing for the attention of the reader. Dutton realized, “It had to be kind of rude. I just tried to make the text as loud as I could so it could stand up to [Kraft’s] images, which are so vibrant, because the text is just black on a page.” The collage of Kraft and Dutton’s interventions is a balance of “syntactic urgency and the immediacy of the visual,” noted Mobilio.

Continue reading at Hyperallergic