'The Cartoon Utopia'

Regé's drawings vibrate with a vision of life seen through a scanner brightly

Arts Review

'The Cartoon Utopia'

Domy Books, 913 E. Cesar Chavez, 476-3669


Through July 29

So much vibration, so much resonance: You can almost feel it humming in the air.

In this city of Austin, where Philip K. Dick's dystopian novel A Scanner Darkly was turned into a complex animated cartoon by Richard Linklater and a thick cadre of artists, now here's a cartoon utopia created by one artist, Ron Regé Jr., gloriously complicating the gallery walls at Domy Books.

If you don't know Dick, be aware that the late visionary pulp and paperback writer also created what he called his "Exegesis," a cosmology, shaded by a sort of melancholy paranoia, that explains the origin and nature of the universe and how the reality of paradise (or the paradise of reality) is undermined by ... certain forces. If you don't know dick about Regé, be aware that this visionary zine and comic-book artist is creating his own cosmology, inspired by theosophy, gnosticism, and hermetic alchemy, redolent more of ecstasy than of paranoia, in which everything is moving toward – or can be moved toward – a spiritual paradise. Be aware that much of this ongoing project awaits your own vision at Domy Books until the end of this month.

So much vibration, so much resonance: You can almost feel it humming in the air.

In Regé's drawings, you can actually see those vibrations, the relationships between objects and the consciousnesses within the earthly vessels. Regé works most often in simple black lines; his figures and landscapes leap to your sight, without shading, in what's been tagged a "Cute Brut" style, but the patterns of those hundreds of lines can be as complicated as a million gray-scale pixels. The beauty of the flow and balance that the artist achieves in his drawings – of the genesis of life, of the struggles of humanity against itself, of the wonders of spiritual peace and technological plenty to come – can leave you momentarily breathless. As if correspondence with the best material from last-century pulps were inescapable, Regé's star-fire illuminations often seem a more cartoony version of the pen-and-ink miracles wrought by Virgil Finlay, and just as effective.

Finlay, of course, worked in the pulps – especially in the sci-fi milieu in which Dick struggled to hack out a living. And the pulps eventually morphed into comic books, in which the graphic magnificence of Jack Kirby was the enduring pinnacle. And you can see, although it's initially startling, that lineage carried through to Regé's "Cartoon Utopia": When the artist adds black fills to his work or expands the delicate lines beyond a certain thickness, the shapes and patterns take on distinctly Kirby-esque tone – not out of place at all, come to think, considering Kirby's own cosmologies, gods, and übergizmos in the superheroic pages of Marvel and DC.

So much vibration, so much resonance: You can almost feel it humming in the air. We recommend a trip to Domy to experience this touring epicenter of graphic energy, to witness the originals that later formed (or will form) comic books and pictorial albums, to enjoy the primacy of ink on paper from the pen of a man who knows how to wield it, who is determined to show you his alchemical vision of the world as seen through a scanner brightly.

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The Cartoon Utopia, Ron Regé Jr., Domy Books, A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick, Virgil Finlay, Jack Kirby

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