Tony Lewis, Maybe, 2016. Pencil, graphite powder, and correction fluid on paper and transparency. Courtesy of the Artist.

Anthology 2014–2016 is an installation of thirty-four original collage-poems by the Chicago-based artist Tony Lewis. Exhibited at the Hirshhorn for the first time in its entirety, this series of evocative black-and-white works draws on an unlikely source—Calvin and Hobbes comic books.

Tony Lewis. Courtesy of the studio. Photo: Mark Poucher.

Tony Lewis. Courtesy of the studio. Photo: Mark Poucher.

Lewis (b. 1986, Los Angeles) is part of an exciting generation of artists working to collapse the boundaries between different art forms. He has quickly established himself in the contemporary art world by forming a distinct visual vocabulary that integrates poetry and text with the properties of abstraction. His monochromatic drawings pull from various visual and written sources, ranging from the personal to the political. Separating, rearranging, and erasing text, he shifts the way we read to open up new and unexpected meanings.

To create Anthology 2014–2016, Lewis deconstructed hundreds of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, reordered them, and ultimately shaped them into poems through a process of erasing, editing, and rearranging dialogue. Each poem is assembled as a collage of individual drawings that explores the collaborative nature of creativity and authorship, leaving meaning open to a range of interpretations.

Through this series, Lewis realized that one can write through drawing. He says, “This is the clearest form of writing I’ve done to date, transferring authorship from Bill Watterson’s dialogue to a distinct writing process. Calvin and Hobbes was a literary and artistic savior growing up in the ’90s. By physically destroying it, appropriating it, editing it and rebuilding its narrative, I find new language and ideas that culminate with an intimate collection of poems.”

Curated by Betsy Johnson, Curatorial Assistant