Frontier, #1, art by Uno Moralez. Edited/Published by Ryan Sands a.k.a. Youth in Decline, April 2013.
The first issue of Frontier, a quarterly monograph series commenced earlier this year, doesn’t feature comics per se, but that only speaks to its engagement with the medium’s boundaries….
…This first outing features Uno Moralez, a Russian artist whose work until now (at least on our shores) has been confined almost strictly to the internet, where he produced a loosely-linked series of dazzling gifs, earning him some attention in North America, among other places. Frontier’s contents are culled from this sequence—that is to say, the images reproduced here are already freely available—so it’s to the publisher’s credit that their appearance in print proves necessary rather than redundant.
Much of this comes down to the printing. Thanks to editor/publisher Ryan Sands (best known for the spectacular porn anthology Thickness), the images luminously printed within Frontier’s pages could hardly be more flattered, exposing Moralez as much more than a gimmick artist. When frozen into static images, reproduced here in a range including startling pinks, blues, and turquoises (as needed), Moralez’s gifs are transformed. Elements that when animated came off as flashy or exclamatory become far more haunting kept still, unraveling as you watch them (a strange sensation) into bizarre and subtle sorts of sequences. Most every composition contains fragments that tick beneath the surface like bombs, the sorts of things unearthed only with time and focus. In other words, the reader does more work in bringing these images to life here—as if a string of panels were compressed into each single image—and it’s an exercise that while bringing readers closer to the artist’s quasi-narrative, forces them even more to reckon with his images’ considerable depth.
You could attempt to catalogue the range of influences working on Moralez’s art, or its delicate intertwining of the pretty and the unsettling, but itwould be a futile, even egotistical exercise. A more rewarding practice is to accept Moralez’s work for what it is: distilled, distinct, bold and often alien. It’s the sort of book that makes us cognizant of our own boundaries—though wordless, it’s still very much an exercise in translation, displacing us from what we know and placing us well outside our depth. It’s only natural that Sands’ new monograph series indicate in its name at the idea of borders—from the printing to the images chosen to its engagement with online culture, this book broadcasts an air of confident confrontation while feeling effortlessly current, hinting at all sorts of ways to prevent a whole medium from ossifying. This is aggressive and challenging stuff, and it’s not that often you can say that. I hope each book Sands puts out keeps on getting fiercer and fiercer, and that the rest of comics can keep up—they’d certainly be better for trying.