A few years ago I had the pleasure of showing at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. I was one of about five hundred exhibiters from all over the world for “Art Expo New York”. The works were primarily from contemporaries with different degrees of noteterity including Jane Seymour and Paul Stanley of Kiss. There were original pieces by Chagall and castings from Rodin. Animation artist and director Eric Goldberg was there showing exclusive animation shorts and doing drawings. There was one artist that I was very much interested in that was exhibiting; Bill Sienkiewicz. He was one of three comic illustrators whose original work was to be displayed. The other two were Alex Ross and a new guy, Simone Bianche.
The night before the opening I asked a man behind the comic artist’s desk; who happened to be Bill’s agent, if Bill Sienkiewicz would be making an appearance. My pronunciation was something like Sink-O-Vicks. He handed me a business card with the correct pronunciation spelled phonetically on the back: Sin-KEV-Itch. “No… but I’ll tell Bill how you murdered his name” he said with a bit of laughter. I had at least made an impression and learned how to pronounce Sienkiewicz.
My first exposure to the immensely popular and talented artist’s work was in the pages of a black and white magazine from the Eighties featuring The Incredible Hulk. At that time Bill was doing an amazingly convincing homage to Neal Adams. I never purchased a copy of the magazine. This guy was good but not original, the equalivant of a cover artist in music. Sienkiewicz would later prove to be a phenomenal cover artist in the graphics arts field but that has a whole other meaning. Sienkiewicz would begin to speak in his own unique voice around 1984 in the pages of “Moon Knight” and “The New Mutants”. I don’t know what it was like when he decided to break apart from everything that had gone before but I think it must have been a sort of Dr. Frankenstein moment for him. “IT’S ALIVE…IT’S ALIVE…” I can imagine Bill screaming insanely and having to be restrained as he completed each page. I know that’s what Iwas experiencing from these totally unlikely, intrinsically beautiful pages. Like his predecessor; Neal Adams, he was doing everything wrong within the medium. He was doing what looked like watercolors, collage and mixed media stuff along with his drawings. Things no one was doing with comic books. Some of the character drawings were expressionistic studies; without true form, to be interpreted by each reader in their own fashion. It was Post Modern. It- was- glorious!
In the years to follow Sienkiewicz was impressing, while inventing the graphic novel industry with works like “Electra Assassin “, “Dare Devil: Love and War” and “Stray Toasters”. Some of his projects he wrote himself, others were by illuminates like Frank Miller.
His most remarkable work on “Voodoo Child: the Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix” is considered to be legendary among the legends. The Classics Illustrated adaption of Melville’s “Moby Dick” is simply the best to date in the history of that epic magazine series. It is Sienkiewicz’s masterpiece. Sienkiewicz has crossed over many times to illustrate for main stream magazines, albums and DVDs. Not long ago he collaborated on live performance video projection with his early inspiration Neal Adams. Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters commissioned the two for his “Leaving Beirut” shows.
He has picked up a few awards in his career including the “Eisner” and “Kirby”.
There is nothing typical of the work of Bill Sienkiewicz. His is a style that is unmistakable but without a definitive label. That is a good thing. It is the luxurious elegance of his work that places Bill Sienkiewicz in his own league and our pleasure to attend each performance.