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Both start with g. The same; not the same

violetteinstallSince yesterday I’ve been mulling over the way that we’ve been using goth and grotesque almost interchangeably (see posts here and here. I didn’t include Roberta’s previous post because I don’t think she does confuse them there, but that post, which is also on grotesque, is here). So I feel the need to mention what I think are fundamental differences.

They both confront death and horror, and they both have room for spiritual agendas.


But goth romanticizes it and gives it a style. I’m thinking here of Banks Violette and his unicorns and other medieval symbols made sappy and glowing(above right by Violette). I’m also thinking of my nephew Shawn Dubin‘s drawings (I admit I’m a doting aunt). He’s the artist for the “Dreary and Naughty” series of illustrated books (with a cult following among high school-aged kids), and as is typical in gothic, he transforms the scary patrimony of his main characters, descended from the Devil and the Angel of Death into ordinary outsider high school kids who really know how to dress. (Here’s a picture from another old, noirish comic that he illustrated–dark, stylish, beautiful i.e. goth.)


Grotesque on the other hand defangs death and horror by taking the opposite tack–it exaggerates to achieve revulsion and pleasure simultaneously, as in this image from Alex Rubio that was included in the “”Visiones from Postmodern Aztlan”” show at Taller Puertorriqueno in the summer (see my post here and Roberta’s post here) (“El Diablito,” 1998, screenprint).

Which is not to say that art can’t include both approaches in one piece. But the words aren’t really interchangeable.