Graphic Details is a fascinating and free exhibition that has finally arrived in London after touring North America for five years, writes Deborah Cleland-Harris.
Curated by award-winning London artist Sarah Lightman (pictured right) and New York-based journalist Michael Kaminer, it features the work of 18 graphic novelists from all over the world.
While the influential role of Jews in cartooning has long been acknowledged, the role of Jewish women in shaping the medium is still largely unexplored. This exhibition of original drawings, full comic books and graphic novels presents the powerful work of artists whose designs have influenced the world of comics over the past four decades.
The artwork on display covers universal topics including friendships, love, families, sex and politics.
It overflows with humour, warmth and sadness and is extremely moving. For instance, many of the artists have touched upon their Jewish identities in their work. They include Bernice Eisenstein, a child of Holocaust survivors, who reflects on her parents’ survival of Auschwitz, and how it affects her in her work.
Feeling “tied to the Holocaust”, she has produced a cartoon which depicts a scene where another child grabs her hair and she shouts out: “Don’t do that. My parents were in Auschwitz.”
The exhibition is about life and death, its ups and downs and the funny awkward moments that leave us riling, illustrated by artist Melissa Lasko-Gross’s The Turd, about an awkward toilet situation in a coffee shop.
Sarah Lightman’s recently-published Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews is a fully illustrated book that accompanies the show. It is a great way to learn more about the artists, many of whom have never showcased their work until now.
According to Lightman: “This show is a kind of bloodline of autobiographical comics by Jewish women. It is a creative and ongoing lineage. “That Jews have had such an extensive contribution to comics is well documented, but the focus has been mostly on men and superheroes.”
• Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women runs until 13 Dec at Space Station Sixty-Five. Building One, 373 Kennington Road, SE11.