Charlottesville’s newest art gallery, Telegraph, opened its doors on March 1. Pre-opening hype promised “exclusive new screenprinted poster editions” from a variety of comic book artists, and touted a sharp logo, heralding the imminent arrival of some interesting work at its Fourth Street location (just off the Mall, between O’Suzannah and C’ville Smoke Shop). It came as a pleasant surprise upon walking through Telegraph’s door to find not just a new gallery space, but a full-fledged store, carrying zines, prints, coffee table books, and graphic novels from a wide variety of contemporary mark-makers.
The gallery’s walls are nothing to sneeze at either, offering prints by a dozen emerging and newly-established artists each month, all made specifically to match Telegraph’s curatorial theme, and at the affordable price of $28 a pop.
With just one month under its belt, and upcoming shows on the way, Telegraph has already experienced remarkable success with Charlottesville’s Downtown crowd. It’s the brainchild of David Murray and Kate deNeveu, former locals who met years ago while studying at UVA, who have returned to town to settle down.
“We moved around the country a lot,” Murray said, “and wherever we were, I always had a day job in a print shop. I’ve always done illustration and t-shirt design. I’ve been running an online t-shirt business for the past seven years and Kate was doing sales at the last shop I was working at, Forward Printing in Oakland. We’d been planning on opening a shop like this, when we moved back.”
“We came back [to Charlottesville] to get married,” deNeveu said. “Both of our families live here, or nearby. We weren’t planning on moving back until summer, but then we saw this space, and said, ‘this is perfect, we have to do it here.’ We made the decision that day, and actually moved back from California early to be here.”
Each month Telegraph will ask 12 illustrators to design prints based around a single theme. For March it was Monstrous, April will be Galaxy, and May’s theme is Junk Food. The participating artists include several who have recently made their mark in the world of underground comics and illustration, such as Michael DeForge, Zak Soto, and Niv Bavarsky, in addition to lesser-known names who are just starting to have their work seen. “We met most of these artists just from traveling around, working shows with them,” Murray said. The original illustrations are sent to a printing company that pulls a hundred copies of each color layer for each print.
The decision to branch out into zines, comics, and graphic novels was a natural one. “A lot of the artists working in this lowbrow pop style are doing a lot more than just art you can hang on your wall,” deNeveu said. While those looking for the latest fix of Batman or The Avengers are still advised to visit Atlas Comics in the Rio Hill Shopping Center, Telegraph carries a fine (and growing) selection of alternative comics, many of which are made by young artists crossing over between media, knocking down the boundaries between illustration, printmaking, zines, bookmaking, and narrative comics work.
Telegraph’s browser-friendly displays are front-loaded with funny, accessible, one-joke pamphlets (sample title: “Never Date Dudes From the Internet”), but visitors won’t have to dig deep into the store to find high-quality, contemporary work like Dash Shaw’s restlessly inventive postmodern narratives, James Kochalka’s adorably simple joke diaries, and Johnny Ryan’s merciless bad-taste assaults.
The store also carries a healthy amount of recent work by long-standing indie comics legends. Charles Burns, author of “Black Hole,” is currently turning European adventure and American romance comics into surrealist nightmares with “X’ed Out” and “The Hive.” Dan Clowes’ “Ghost World” remains perennially popular, but his recently reprinted story “The Death Ray” might be his true masterpiece. Gary Panter’s decades of mind-melting punk cubism are perhaps best sampled in the recent “Dal Tokyo” collection. All of these artists have been active since the early 1980s, and serve as godfathers to the current indie comics vanguard.
While it’s refreshing to have such work easily available in a Downtown storefront, most of Murray and deNeveu’s attention remains focused on organizing the monthly gallery installations. So far the enterprise has been wildly successful. “We’ve seen phenomenal enthusiasm,” deNeveu said. “The amount of people coming in here has been really flattering. A lot of people get excited about art that’s not in the $1,000, or even the $100 price range. We definitely have the best dollar-to-square-inch ratio for art in town.”
“We’ve sold a lot,” Murray said. “A lot of people were coming in, asking ‘who are these people, can you tell us more about their art?’ and that’s good. We want to bring artists that Charlottesville doesn’t already know about.”
Telegraph’s rough plans for the future include a Sunday Comics Day, meet-ups with local artists, and screenprinting workshops where participants can bring clothing to have an image silkscreened on it right in the store.
“It’s been great so far,” Murray said. “It’s only been a few weeks, but we already feel like we could do this for another 10 years.”
Who is your favorite screenprint artist? Tell us at www.c-ville.com/arts.