I see a lot of art books from a lot of major publishers, a lot of graphic novels and children’s books, but I don’t think I’ve been as thrilled and excited by any of it so much as “Kus!” (pronounced “koosh!”), this mini-digest format anthology from Latvia, with its beautiful, raw, often experimental work, and just the tip of the iceberg in regard to the group’s publishing efforts, as well as its exhibitions and workshops.
The 15th issue uses cats as a unifying topic, but the results are varied and challenging. Opening with Riga artist Martin Zutis’ graphically delightful “Inner Voice,” which uses slightly altered repetitive layouts of cats to create a chaotic psychological representation of a cat’s mind, the issue moves into the comic strip as reference book effort by Latvian artist Dace Sietina, which transforms the narrative of Teddy the cat into a collection of artful diagrams and data.
These really set the tone for the volume, though nothing from that point on is ever predictable.
Among the highlights: Illustrator Leo Quievreux and collage artist Freedox, two French artists, collaborate on “Les Failles de Mr. Zeng,” a cryptic and abstract bombast of dys topian psychedelia involving a cat; Latvian artist Davis Ozols’ “Lost and Found” is a beautifully primitive illustrated fable about searching and finding that pulls from children’s books; Reinis Petersons’ “7 Deadly Sins for 9 Lives and Beyond” is a simple primer in the worst of existence as experienced through cats, wrought in simple black-and-white med itations; and Polish artist Maria Ines Gul’s visual poem, “Love cats,” imagines falling in love and becoming a pet as the antidote to loneliness.
Though technically advertised as “comics,” the work is of a sophistication that I think the designation not only limits the appeal of the work, but also the possible venues. This would be more appropriately termed “sequential art,” in that the artwork is more than one picture hanging on the wall.
It is a series, and narrative is as central to them as some of the best installations, and with the same desire not to dictate what the creator brings to the piece, rather letting the viewer take it to heart and do the work.
There’s nothing in here, or any of the volumes I have seen, that would be out of place as gallery art, offering sequence as another dimension to viewing.
Issues of Kus can be ordered online at komikss.lv.