Vertebral Honorees
Haveron, Lee, and Roberts

Bill Haveron
El Franco Lee II
Dylan Roberts

Pump Project
Austin, Texas

October 10–November 8, 2014

The newspaper used to get me up in the morning. The daily comic strips and the full-color Sundays held my attention span like nothing else. I caught up with The Amazing Spiderman, laughed out loud at Bloom County, pondered Calvin and Hobbes’ observations of the world and, of course, absorbed The Far Side. Superheroes came much later.

Mad magazine was there, too. Arriving monthly, Mad would spoof world news I was unaware of, parody movies I wasn’t allowed to watch, and make fun of the world like, seemingly, no one else. It always arrived wrapped in the kind of brown kraft paper usually reserved for smut. I liked that.

The ‘Origin Story’ is a crucial component of the comic character’s narrative, and likewise, the three painters in this exhibition. Where did they come from? How did they get their powers? What are they hiding from you?

Clearly, they don’t share the same origin story. Each is from Texas, but comes from a significantly different background: the city mouse, the country mouse, and the suburban mouse. Additionally, there are nearly three generations present; a trio of unique seekers.

With an appreciation for cartoons and comics, the figurative and the abstract, the spiritual realm, and the myths surrounding heroes and villains (real and imaginary); these three unapologetic and detailed personal visions convey a strong sense of the daily struggles, the need to seek and meditate on the chaos and events that make up our current world, and a desire to find a place to fit in and work.

I grew up and out of most of what made me today. You probably did, too. I no longer read the same comics, no longer catch up with the daily comic strips, and definitely don’t relate to Mad magazine the way I used to. 

One’s journey truly begins when idols are set down or discarded. We pile up the universe’s baggage, gather our people’s stories, and hoard our experiences for use in the work. Eventually, I discovered the underground and still haven’t come up for air.

Haveron, Lee, and Roberts have something to say. Their art is urgent—singular, impassioned. A relationship with their art is not easy; their offspring are not the pretty or popular ones. It is a sincere pleasure to honor the distinct voices of Bill Haveron, El Franco Lee II, and Dylan Roberts.

Russell Etchen, 2014