Aesthetics: A Memoir

Overview

Born to working-class parents in a small town in Italy, and reared in Chicago, Ivan Brunetti (b. 1967) was drawn to cartoons and comic strips from an early age. Finding inspiration in Spider-Man and Peanuts, he began crafting his own stories and gradually developed a unique style that he applied to imaginative, sometimes shocking subjects. The dark humor of his graphic novels earned him a cult following, yet his illustrations have had broad appeal. Now recognized as an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator, ...

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Overview

Born to working-class parents in a small town in Italy, and reared in Chicago, Ivan Brunetti (b. 1967) was drawn to cartoons and comic strips from an early age. Finding inspiration in Spider-Man and Peanuts, he began crafting his own stories and gradually developed a unique style that he applied to imaginative, sometimes shocking subjects. The dark humor of his graphic novels earned him a cult following, yet his illustrations have had broad appeal. Now recognized as an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator, Brunetti has published his work in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and McSweeney’s, among others.

This eye-popping illustrated autobiography by Brunetti traces his artistic trajectory and output, from youthful doodles to his latest cover illustrations and comic strips. Aesthetics: A Memoir unearths a trove of previously unpublished materials, including working drawings, sketches for cartoons, book covers, personal photographs, and items from the artist’s collection of toys and handmade objects. In an introductory essay and captions, Brunetti explains—in a voice that is as quirky, smart, and clear as his drawings—his creative process and aesthetic sensibility. This overarching retrospective conveys Brunetti’s philosophy of life and cartooning through his keen words and unforgettable images.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practices) has a long career as cartoonist, educator, and editor, and this new book serves as both a partial collection and memoir. Along with his well-known, highly satirical and personal comics and magazine contributions, there is plenty of obscure work too: a papier-mâché sculpture of Mickey Mouse, and Brunetti’s attempt at a Sunday strip for the rebooted Nancy in the ’90s. The book doesn’t proceed chronologically, flitting back and forth between different moments in Brunetti’s prolific career, discussing some of his New Yorker covers before flashing back to some of his earliest drawings from childhood. Rather than serving as a straightforward memoir of his career, the book is much more a collection of the author’s artwork, accompanied by commentary and photographs of objects that have inspired him. The commentary does have great moments of insight into cartooning though, as when Brunetti says of an old comic strip from his college days that it provides “incontrovertible evidence that anyone can learn to draw better, or at least find ways to refine their approach, through constant and vigilant practice.” Wise advice from a true professional. (June)
Comics Reporter - Tom Spurgeon
“The happiest surprise of the year . . . reminds us how much fun Brunetti is as a cartoonist.”—Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter
Globe and Mail - Sean Rogers
Aesthetics is as expertly curated and devoutly minimalist as [Brunetti’s] other projects, and his insights into life and craft are real and pragmatic—and funny.”—Sean Rogers, Globe and Mail
USA Today - Whitney Matheson
“Engaging and inspiring”—Whitney Matheson, USA Today “Pop Candy” blog
Mint - R. Sukumar
“A fascinating read . . . a little gem.”—R. Sukumar, Mint
Los Angeles Review of Books - David M. Ball
“A fascinating tour of Brunetti’s mind . . . some of the most formally virtuosic page compositions in Brunetti’s entire oeuvre . . . a joy to collectors, students, and scholars of the medium.”—David M. Ball, Los Angeles Review of Books
JM Northern Media LLC - Great Midwest Book Festival
Winner of the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival in the Photography/Art category, given by JM Northern Media LLC
The Comic Pusher - Jeffrey O. Gustafson
"Indispensable . . . superbly designed . . . an appropriately indefinable book for an artist whose distinct career phases defy convention."—Jeffrey O. Gustafson, The Comic Pusher
Chicago Tribune - Jake Austin
"[A] handsome collection . . . the curation and captions here might make this his most revealing work yet . . . [an] impressive volume."—Jake Austin, Chicago Tribune
Kirkus Reviews
A handsomely designed encapsulation of the artistic life of a unique American illustrator. Born in small-town Italy and raised in working-class Chicago, Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, 2011, etc.) has likely reached his widest readership with a series of covers for New Yorker (most of them featuring multiple figures with big, round heads), though his work also encompasses strips in an alternative weekly, book covers, work for smaller journals and, most surprisingly, an unsuccessful attempt to become a successor to the late Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy" strip (oft-ridiculed, but the round heads suggest a link). As the book traces the artist's development (though not, of course, chronologically), it only occasionally interrupts the parade of images with words that seem like little more than captions. Yet that annotation is crucial and illuminating, revealing an artist whose consciousness is as distinctive as his aesthetics, partly the result of "terrible" eyesight ("I have tried to convert this severe limitation into an idiosyncrasy. A pre-derangement of the senses.") but more from a deep sense of worthlessness: "Typically, I loathe my strips nearly as much as I loathe myself." The reflections force readers to consider Brunetti's art through fresh eyes (though not the author's bad eyes) and to understand the interrelationship among his aesthetic, his perception and his life. It also details a progression from a child's scrawl to the three-dimensional work (which he resists calling sculpture) to which he has turned in depression. Like any good Italian boy, he also displays an obsession with (pre-Disney) Pinocchio. Essential for fans but fascinating for those new to Brunetti's work as well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300184402
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 1,346,427
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ivan Brunetti has published several graphic novels and taught courses on editorial illustration and comics at the University of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago.

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