Some artists are celebrated, some exploited, and some simply make audiences uncomfortable by creating works like Chris Ware’s latest, “Building Stories.”
Ware is best known in alternative-comics circles for his mostly-self-published series the “Acme Novelty Library,” which has featured numerous high-end paper stocks, gold foil and other enhancements, in addition to intricate drawings and creative typography.
His near-obsessive changes to traditional graphic novel techniques have gained him many fans in design circles, Chip Kidd perhaps the most enthusiastic. Yet “Building Stories,” which follows the lives in a small Chicago neighborhood, has irked a good number of readers because its tales of love and loss fail to provide an easy-to-follow linear path…
….which is like tossing your Picasso on the fire because you can’t get a clear picture of the model he painted. This $50, 6 lb. package published by Pantheon is a marvel of printing variety. “Building Stories” consists of 14 pieces of varying sizes and formats, including broadsheets, pamphlets, a book designed to look like a children’s book, a board-game board, and more.
“With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it’s reassuring — perhaps even necessary — to have something to hold on to,” the book copy boasts, and seems to be on to something. These are not simply paper gimmicks for their own sake. The serendipity of picking up now this piece, now that piece, beautifully mimics the blend of boredom and joy the characters experience, and the variety of life itself.