Book Review: Visual Funk: Jim Mahfood Art

Visual Funk: Jim Mahfood Art
By Jim Mahfood
IDW Publishing
Release Date: August 28, 2013
Cover Price: $49.99

Visual Funk: Jim Mahfood Art isn’t an examination of Jim Mahfood‘s comics work, that is, the work that made him famous (a brief look at Tank Girl notwithstanding), so there’s no narrative structure, nor a chronological exploration. And unlike similar books examining an artist’s oeuvre, there’s minimal text, save for brief subject introductions by Mahfood.

What it is, is a compendium of mostly posters, showcasing Mahfood’s angular, cartoony, street-level, graffiti, hip-hop via manga style “” page after page crackling with energy and attitude. I also saw many elements in his ink work that reminded me of the art of Bill Sienkiewicz, Ted McKeever, Ralph Steadman, and Joe Ollmann.

Visual Funk is decidedly an art book, a coffee table book, even. It covers ad agencies, automobiles, hair care products, musicians, body painting, mixed-media experiments, life-drawing studies, even podcasts; truly, everything but the kitchen sink. We’re also given a shape of things to come with a peek at his D.I.S.C.O. Destroyer animated series.

Visual Funk is also the best evidence to support the position that Jim Mahfood is an “artist” artist, now, and via his ‘Food One’ alter ego, a brand even. There are so many pieces here worth framing, and at a size of 9.5″ x 12″, plus some cheap frames, that becomes an attractive possibility. In fact, I’ve a feeling that Mahfood would approve of tearing pages out and recontextualizing them.

A criticism: given the wealth of strong illustrations inside, I found it odd that the cover seemed so low-fi in comparison. It’s lacking in contrast, and the title is almost lost. And the forced inclusion of a photo of a body-painted model makes it look somewhat amateurish.

Visual Funk: Jim Mahfood Art is recommended, with one caveat: it’s a book for completist fans. Those seeking a more engrossing experience, or a narrative of some kind, will likely derive greater satisfaction from one of his comics.

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