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Jonathan Bousfield: Welcome to Hofbauerland

The publication of comic-strip collection Mister Morgen confirms Igor Hofbauer’s status as the unrivalled master of Croatian grotesque.
While Hofbauer’s poster designs represent a playful exercise in trash horror, his narrative strips are a much darker affair, featuring tales of obsession, anguish, and impending apocalypse.



 

Graphic artist Igor Hofbauer has long been considered one of Zagreb’s most eloquent visual spokesmen, producing posters, murals, book-cover designs and club flyers that conjure up a darkly seductive image of his native city. What’s increasingly apparent is that he is also one of the country’s leading practitioners of short fiction, a status confirmed by the graphic-novella collection Mister Morgen, out this month courtesy of Paris-based publisher L’Association.

Summoning a twilight world of abandoned hotels, sexual obsession and urban paranoia, the book cements Hofbauer’s reputation as one of the leading figures of the European graphic underground. Printed on thick matt paper, Hofbauer’s retro-sci-fi-constructivism-noir artwork serves as a compelling introduction to a distinctive visual universe.

Hofbauer’s literary potential has been obvious ever since the emergence of Prison Stories (published in Croatian by Otompotom) in 2007, a woozily narcotic collection that showcased an ambiguous and unnerving narrative style. Prison Stories is nowadays something of a cult title among the graphic-novella cognoscenti – the number of people who claim to own a copy far exceeds the 300 that were actually printed.

Bringing Hofbauer’s comic-strip work to a wider audience was Crimson Lagoon (the grotesque tale of an Adriatic-based holiday dystopia co-scripted by the author of these lines), serialized in four parts by Croatian magazine Globus in summer 2015.

Horned man at the crossroads

It’s with the design of posters and flyers for alternative club Močvara that the Hofbauer story really starts. Throughout the late 1990s and the early 2000s, his eye-catchingly phantasmagorical designs were a ubiquitous feature of Zagreb’s once-flourishing street-poster scene. As Močvara’s co-founder Kornel Šeper explains: “The first concert we ever organized was on November 29 1996 and was called ‘Day of the Republic of Noise’. We invited Igor to design a poster for us because we knew him and liked him; we hadn’t actually seen any of his work. He gave us two different designs – one with a monkey dancing on its head, another showing a horned man standing at a highway crossroads – and we used them both. He turned out to the best possible artist we could have chosen. He was humorous, he was different, he was absurd. Which was exactly what we needed.”

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Jana Kujundžić: Mi, one od nekada

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Jana Kujundžić (1990.) diplomirala je sociologiju na Hrvatskim studijima u Zagrebu i masterirala rodne studije (Gender studies,) na Central European Universityju u Budimpešti. Osim kratkih priča piše i feminističke kritike događanja u Hrvatskoj i u svijetu kao i kritike filmova i serija za portale Libela i Voxfeminae.

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Marija Solarević: Itinerar

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Marija Solarević (1987., Zagreb) diplomirala je pedagogiju i etnologiju s kulturnom antropologijom na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu, osvajila je MetaFora nagradu u organizaciji Knjižnice Vladimira Nazora, u Centru za kreativno pisanje pohađa radionice i stvara kolumnu o književnosti i pop-kulturi. Trenutno piše zbirku kratkih priča "Noćne ptice".

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