Adam Baumgold Gallery presents the third New York solo exhibition of famed cartoonist Lynda Barry, The Marlys Show, from September 17th through November 5th. The exhibition will be devoted to Lynda Barry’s beloved character Marlys, and will feature 80 original drawings. There will be work dating from the early appearances of Marlys in 1986 to watercolor drawings of Marlys from 2016, with stories from Barry’s books The Fun House; Come Over, Come Over; It's So Magic; The Freddie Stories and of course The Greatest of Marlys, which is being reissued this year in hardcover by Drawn and Quarterly. Also included will be many of Lynda Barry’s comic drawings that were published in Raw, The Village Voice, Esquire, Newsweek and The New York Times, among others.
Marlys and her family and friends have been central to Lynda Barry’s work for the last 30 years. In an endnote to The Greatest of Marlys, Lynda Barry describes how important the character Marlys has been for her: “Although my own childhood was very different from hers, she’s helped me make some sense of things that I never had words for before. She became the imaginary friend I’d always wanted.”
In early Marlys works like Found a Peanut, 1986 or School Pictures, 1987, Barry developed her knack for inhabiting a child’s voice and perspective. She uses the cartoon format to intersperse observations or advice with storytelling. In Fine Dining, 1986, a little aside notes the proper way to make a favorite recipe mentioned above: “Fry baloney until it humps up. Burn edges. Hide frying pan under bed so mom won’t cream you for the black marks that you can’t scrub out.”
Comics from the ensuing years cover nearly every topic, from nosy neighbors and visiting aunts, to school lunchrooms and trailer park cuisine, to bugs, dogs, dancing, friendship, adolescence, yelling, and love. They move back and forth between surface level fixations (a fork stuck in the ceiling of the lunchroom, a coveted pair of pink go go boots) and the sometimes difficult background hum of absent parents, unimaginative teachers, and limiting circumstances.
Starting in the 1990s, Lynda Barry created a series of periodical-style comics from the perspective of Marlys—like Trailer Talk, Entertainment, and Marlys Living—that satirize the adult world. In The Marlys Springer Show, Marlys gets the scoop on a spat between two praying mantises, after one has eaten the other’s boyfriend. Let’s Get Organized offers advice like, “Tip #3: Make a list of everything you can make a list of!” Other works feature flies reading poetry at open mic sessions, and thoughts on what to mix into paint (vacuum cleaner bag contents, spices, sweet pickle relish, aquarium sand) to create rooms with beautiful texture (the final tip: “Glob it on the walls fast before someone gets home!)
Lynda Barry got her start when she created Ernie Pook’s Comeek in the late 1970s, a syndicated alternative weekly comic strip that ran for over 20 years. In addition to her comic works, Barry has written two illustrated novels. She later adapted The Good Times Are Killing Me into a Broadway play. She has received two Will Eisner awards, The American Library association’s Alex award, the Washington State governor’s award, the Wisconsin Library Associations RR Donnelly Award. Barry lives and works in Wisconsin where she is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity at the University of Wisconsin (Madison).