“Four-Color Universe,” a group exhibit curated by VCU Art Foundation faculty member Chris Norris, is currently on display in the Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond until October 21. Norris has brought together eight artists who have works that call upon familiar imagery liken to old comics, pre-digitization. The show features Brooke Inman, Anthony Iacono, Anthony Meloro, Jason Keith, Charlotte Rodenberg, Blade Wynne, Vernon Payne, and Nathan Tersteeg.
“The original idea for the show came from the concept of a LGBTQ comic exhibit,” Norris said. “But, that was hard. So, I looked for artists that drew from comics.”
Norris’ love and knack for art came from his childhood, rummaging through superstore comic spinner racks. Even before he was in school, Norris drew. “My grandmother, employed by the telephone company, would bring me the sharpened-down black IBM-branded pencils used by the operators for me to draw with,” Norris said in the “Four-Color Universe” press release from Diversity. ”I didn’t know a pencil was longer than three inches until I went to grade school.”
Comics began with a cheap printing process. Until Image Comics revolutionized digital printing in 1990, comics used thick, heavy black lines, crude color cutting, and grayscale paper. “There were almost like these sweat shops in New York, people cutting out colors and shapes. And that’s why things would be off-register. The flesh tones of Superman in his neck would tone down to the blue and red in his outfit,” Norris said.
“I started to become cognizant that these comics contained universes,” Norris said in the “Four-Color Universe” press release. “This is when I began to create worlds of my own. The artists selected for this exhibition represent formal and narrative aspects of my four-color universe.” When interviewed by GayRVA, he elaborated on this statement. “Meloro uses beautiful line work with big bolds. On the other hand, some artists make use of large blocks of color. And then blending in between, we have artists like Rodenberg. You don’t really know, you just start following artists’ work.”
Norris began planning “Four-Color Universe” over a year ago. “That’s how long it usually takes, and it always starts with a gestation period,” Norris said. He holds this project very dear. “I’m a shy guy and didn’t have many connections after grad school, so I asked, ‘What can I do?” he said. “I’ve slipped into the mentorship role. It came with getting older, and it led me to the Iridian. My curator role helped get these artists’ work in front of people’s faces. Art is a funny animal.”
The Iridian Gallery highlights artists from the LGBTQ community. “There are only two LGBTQ artists in the show,” Norris said. “In the case of curated exhibits, the curator needs to be a part of the LGBTQ community, like me.”
The artists’ reception for “Four-Color Universe” is this Friday, September 8, from 7 to 10 pm. Velocity Comics will be on hand with a selection of LGBTQ graphic novels for sale. Be sure to come out, support local art, and grab a ham biscuit. The Iridian Gallery is located at 1407 Sherwood Ave. For more info on the reception, click here.
Article by Christopher Alan McDaniel.