Jim Woodring: The Pig Went Down to the Harbor at Sunrise and Wept
January 21 – April 16, 2017
At once knowable and entirely strange, the work of Seattle-based artist and cartoonist Jim Woodring (American, born 1952) defies categorization, shifting between graphic novel and fine art, reality and hallucinatory vision. The Pig Went Down to the Harbor at Sunrise and Wept, a series newly commissioned by the Frye Art Museum, was created using an oversize dip pen designed and crafted by Woodring himself. The resulting ink drawings demonstrate the ways that unconventional tools can shape an artist’s practice, generating new technical challenges in tandem with unexpected creative rewards.
These expansive compositions employ a visual language drawn from the artist’s dreams and imagination as well as from vintage American cartoons. In describing the curiosity that fuels his process, Woodring explains, “One common thread that runs through all my work is an interest in and a search for hidden forces—the invisible world. There is very much a questing, searching, seeking quality to everything I do. Each picture I draw is an attempt to answer one question and ask another one at the same time.”
The Pig Went Down to the Harbor at Sunrise and Wept is a purposefully absurd yet evocative title that hints at the enigmatic events depicted within the series. In each self-contained frame, Woodring renders swirling amalgamations of phantasmagorical creatures and organic matter, avoiding recognizable characters and narratives. In doing so, the artist delves deeper into the surreal and fantastical universe that is central to his greater project.