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The Art of the News: Comics Journalism opens at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in the Fall of 2021. At a time of eroded public faith in traditional news media, comics journalism has emerged as a powerful antidote to the dissemination of inaccurate information and fake news. Practitioners in this field re-assert the ethical value of truth-telling, while at the same time foregrounding the inevitably subjective dimensions involved in any act of witnessing. Without shying away from vital questions about the role of representation in the perception of reality, comics journalists are nevertheless telling stories that urgently need to be told—in an immediate and accessible way. As such, the best works of comics journalism stand as compelling examples of how the news might be reimagined as an artistic practice.   

Curated by UO Comics Studies professor, Katherine Kelp-Stebbins, with associate curator and director of Comics Studies, Professor Ben Saunders, The Art of the News is the first major retrospective devoted to this increasingly influential genre of visual narrative. The exhibition spotlights original artwork and artifacts representing over thirty years of reportage by New York Times best-selling author-artist Joe Sacco, a foundational figure in the field—and a graduate of the UO. Accompanying Sacco’s groundbreaking work are key pieces from an international group of artists who have developed comics journalism and are pushing the genre in new directions, including Gerardo AlbaDan Archer, Thi Bui, Tracy Chahwan, Jesús CossioSarah GliddenOmar KhouriVictoria LomaskoSarah MirkBen PassmoreYazan al-Saadi, and Andy Warner.    

By focusing not only on the finished works, but also on the methodology and techniques that each artist employs—the painstaking gathering of information through extensive research and interviews, and the labor-intensive production of comics pages—the exhibition highlights the ethical imperatives that drive this form of documentation. Comics journalists repudiate the vapid sensationalism of “click-bait” headlines, and the simplistic valorization of false objectivity. Against the all-too-rapid flow of the 24-hour news cycle, they demonstrate the principles of in-depth inquiry, insisting on the human dignity of the subjects whose lives they document, from the experiences of displaced persons in refugee camps (Sacco 2013; Glidden 2016; Archer 2020) to that of frontline workers in a pandemic (Mirk and Bui 2020), to protestors of environmental devastation (Warner 2017; Cossio 2019) or race-based state-sponsored murder (Passmore 2016-21) and Putin-era censorship (Lomasko 2016-2020). 

The Art of the News: Comics Journalism exhibition and related programs is made possible with the generous support of the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment, The Ford Family Foundation, and Jeannie Schulz. With additional support from UO departments of English, BLST, Art History, Political Science, Comparative Literature, Oregon Humanities Center, Art, and the Oregon Consortium for International and Area Studies.

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