Home > CR Reviews
The Unhinged World of Glen Baxter
posted April 3, 2003
The Unhinged World of Glen Baxter is one of those books that satisfy as an example of savvy formatting as much as for the unique qualities of its content. This new, impressive volume collects three of the artist's out of print books -- the seminal Atlas, The Impending Gleam, and the wonderfully titled Jodhpurs in the Quantocks -- in a gigantic paperback volume that punishes the reader with its size and scope while re-casting the original books as collector's items. It is a smart entry point into a unique artistic sensibility. Because what Baxter does depends on providing endless variations on a specific theme, an expanded volume sidesteps overkill or monotony in favor of providing a grander showcase for the artist's skill. The bigger the stage, the more impressive Baxter's virtuosity, and Unhinged World is the print equivalent of a stadium tour.
Baxter makes cartoons that combine pictures drawn in a manner reminiscent of first grade primers and boys' adventure stories with carefully selected elements of the absurd. This can be a caption that re-casts the visuals in the seediest manner possible, or a striking visual confrontation within the art the caption only seeks to explain. In the most successful Baxter cartoons, the joke is made more ridiculous by the inappropriateness of style. The casual absurdities undercut the dull seriousness with which we generally view such pictures, leading to a very basic overarching commentary on the orderly, sensible and just society they seek to reinforce in young readers' minds. Baxter's approach to humor should be familiar to anyone who reads a lot of Edward Gorey or anything ever done by Michael Kupperman -- minus the emphasis on clashing style, many of the basic gags are similar to those done by B. Kliban. This is great company, and Baxter's take seems the purest of the lot. In the end, his seemingly endless repertoire of twists and turns is like a brilliantly babbled argument against the branding of civility.