The pioneering comic strip work of German-American artist Lyonel Feininger, subject of the retrospective Lyonel Feininger: At the Edge of the World on view at the Whitney from June through October, inspired the Desert Island Comic Zine Party, an all-day family event that energized the Museum on a mid-October afternoon. The fair, conceived in collaboration with the Brooklyn comic book shop Desert Island, featured local artists who shared work ranging from ’zines to totebags with families in a live book fair setting.
A revered illustrator and leading member of the German Expressionist groups Die Brüke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), the American-born Feininger is fondly remembered for the comic strips he drew for the Chicago Sunday Tribune in 1906, The Kind-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie’s World, panels from which were on view in the exhibition.
To introduce the family participants to the work of Feininger, the Education Department developed a program around three themes central to comic book making: setting, character, and text. At stations positioned throughout the exhibition galleries and manned by museum educators, the mostly tween program participants considered these themes and drew their own one-panel comics in response to Feininger’s work. Who could pass up an opportunity to make art in the galleries on a weekend afternoon? Not many!
Meanwhile, the Museum was hosting the main event in the Lower Gallery: a full-scale, interactive comic book fair. A group of twelve comic book artists, most Brooklyn-based, had been invited by the Whitney and Desert Island owner Gabe Fowler to create an original- black-and-white line drawing prior to the event; limited-edition prints were offered for participants to collect as they visited each artist. A brightly colored book cover designed by the Museum’s graphic designdepartment tied the project together; after collecting drawings, kids were able to bind them into a complete comic book of their own.
The Zine Party is just one in a series of comics-related events that took place throughout the Museum during the fall season. The collaboration with Desert Island Comics was a first for the Museum: “Working with a partner—whether it’s a single artist or another entity—can sometimes be as challenging as it is rewarding. By working with Desert Island, we were able to meet and work with some amazing artists and illustrators, whose drawings helped us to make Feininger’s work accessible to younger audiences,” remarks Stina Puotinen, the Whitney’s senior coordinator of Family Programs.