Underground comic artist Mike Diana was the first ever artist to receive a criminal conviction for obscenity for his artwork in the United States of America. Now, DIVUS London brings a comprehensive
solo exhibition of cartoons, drawings and paintings together at Orbital Comics, central London.
Mike Diana’s style is the one of most unforgettable in contemporary painting and drawing; the bright bold colours of western advertising are combined with rough black lines drawn with the audacity of a Japanese master to form the twisted characters that populate his world. Diana became known in the early nineties for his terrifying child-like drawings published in his Boiled Angel papers. Originally made privately on a Xerox machine and released in only sixty copies, these comics are now hunted by collectors ready to pay thousands of dollars for only a few pages. These drawings have grown over two decades into an amazing body of work; the main theme of which is a cautionary one, a warning that the adult world is a sick and twisted place. Mike Diana never wanted to be a serious member of the rational adult world, because in his opinion the neo-liberal community of elders he chooses to reject is more guilty of the perversions that they routinely employ the conservative media to identify as ‘moral failure’. Mike Diana work portrays the adult as a hypocritical sanguinary monster, and the kid as his honest cruel opposer.
Diana’s work contains graphic and often shocking depictions of society’s most serious problems; child abuse, incest, rape, religious corruption and murder. In Diana’s universe the whole world is tragedy: Religion, family, childhood, friendship, school, adolescence, community, and injustice take centre stage. His work is characterized by his honest and unapologetically vulgar treatment of mainstream American culture and the underlying hypocrisies that exist in that contemporary society. His stories maintain at their core, an anti-moralistic and anti-religious edge using an unflinching visual violence. His blasphemy is so frank that it cannot be ignored. American police and courts certainly felt so as in 1994 Diana was thrown in jail for 4 days without bail, put on probation for 3 years, fined $3000, forbidden from contact with minors, ordered to do 1280 hours of community service whilst maintaining full time employment, and ordered at his own expense, to see a psychiatrist and take “moral” journalism courses.
This survey exhibition, covering more than two decades of Diana’s work, shows a magnified reflection of the society that deemed his artwork a crime.
Also available, to coincide with the exhibition, is the book America published by Divus. This double book box set contains more than 500 pages of rare, limited and out of print cartoons, drawings and paintings with an introductory essay by Marisol Rodriguez and a foreword by Neil Gaiman. Much of Diana’s work portrays outsiders repeatedly being punished by the unforgiving nature of their
surroundings; where the sensitive types are gang raped, tortured, dismembered, pissed upon and left for dead. Drawing parallels with the Franz Kafka book of the same title wherein oppressive and
intangible systems force scorned individuals to plead their innocence in front of remote and mysterious figures of authority.