What’s In A Name? Let’s Ask George Horner’s “Incoherents”

Fair warning : if you’re one of those folks who, reasonably enough, wants to know why a critic likes something (or otherwise), you may as well go no further. This review will only drive you batty. But, seriously — what other choice do I have?

George Horner’s self-published ‘zine Incoherents is, you see, not what it appears. The artist (he’s not a “cartoonist” in the traditional sense of the term) himself states that it’s “an artist book in the form of a comic book. Each page — torn out of a vintage (Golden & Silver Age) comic book and then painted in a redacting fashion, obscuring and abstracting text and images.” What this means, in purely practical terms, is a bunch of clipped drawings floating against mostly (though not exclusively) black backgrounds. Think Samplerman set in a void (or, if you like, the void), and you’re not too far off the mark.

There’s an undeniable appeal here that’s almost hypnotic, though — one begins to intuit a kind of rhythm inherent in Horner’s choices, the hows and whys of both the images he’s opted to “save,” their juxtaposition to each other, and the shapes of the “panels” behind them feeling, somehow, “right” despite no concrete evidence for that opinion being forthcoming. All of which is to say — this book “hit” for me, but if it “misses” for you, that’s entirely understandable.

The cheap newsprint this is printed on — Horner mentions Silly Putty picking up the ink, but your fingers are the more likely recipient of much of it — is no mere gimmicky conceit either, it’s part and parcel of the project itself and the reader/observer’s experience of it. Everything seems by its nature disposable, and for that reason,  you come to value it. To puzzle over it. To read into it what you think is there, regardless of the artist’s own intentions.

Bluntly, to spend a lot more time with it than maybe it even deserves.

To what end? Damn, that’s a good question. And it’s not one that I can, in good conscience, answer for anyone other than my own damn self. Empty word balloons, empty spaces, empty directives — can these somehow be the product of a fully-realized conceptual framework? I think they can, and I think they are. Perhaps the utter lack of the dictatorial, the explained, even the explicable carries with it (even within it) the ultimate freedom to be “correct” in one’s interpretation, no matter what it might be. Maybe “re-purposing” old art and returning it to an approximation of the format in which it originally appeared, minus any sort of “context” whatsoever, is the ultimate “deconstruction” and full-circle “restoration” simultaneously. All these maybes and nothing but — to this critic, that’s cause for reflection and consideration, sure, but also for excitement. Few things, after all, can well and truly claim to be completely different , completely unique, completely singular experiences for each individual person looking at and/or reading them. This book absolutely is — and while that’s no guarantee that you’ll like it or even appreciate it, who are we kidding? It also means that you have absolutely no reason not to.

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Incoherents clocks in at 40 pages (Horner claims to have produced 600 so far and is still at it!) and sells for $5 from our friends at Domino Books. You can (and really should) order it at :http://dominobooks.org/incoherents.html

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